What do we want to know?
As a result of the Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), countries worldwide have faced multiple mandatory lockdowns, movement restrictions, and enforced physical distancing measures; as well as individuals dealing with stress, fear and uncertainty of virus spread and severity. Understanding the full extent of the effects incurred by parents and carers during school closures is vital to identifying and supporting vulnerable families, as well as mitigating harmful consequences to themselves their children, and to their children’s education and long-term prospects.
The aim of this rapid review is to appraise and report on the current available evidence of the potential effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on UK parents and carers; as well as what can be done to mitigate some of the more harmful effects. The specific research questions that this review seeks to address are as follows:
- Harms: What specific harms have UK parents and carers experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic?
- Mitigations: What are potential mitigating factors that may reduce the impact of identified harms?
Who wants to know?
The UK Government’s Department for Education (DfE) commissioned this work following a recommendation from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE). The review will be useful to a range of communities including policy makers, educational practitioners, employers, and school students and their families.
What did we find?
School closures meant that many parents and carers of school-aged children took on responsibilities as educators in addition to their work and other caring responsibilities. Our review shows that this had especially pronounced impacts on mothers, single parents and those on lower income, and parents and carers of children with special educational needs and/or neurodevelopmental disorders. There is evidence for COVID-related impacts in the following areas in the UK:
- mental health
- economic impacts
- impacts on particular grouping of parents and carers
- levels of domestic abuse
Suggested mitigations include:
- providing parents on lower incomes with financial support through Universal Credit and the Pupil Premium, and reinvesting in schemes such as the Sure Start Local Programmes, may help mitigate economic effects.
- providing parenting support for parents with anxiety disorders can also help children’s anxiety problems.
- Raising awareness among parents and children of the support available for those at risk of domestic violence and abuse.
What are the implications?
Our review raises questions for education policymakers working on how best to apply learnings from the pandemic to increase the resilience of the school sector to future disruption. For example:
- What might be done to prepare for future unscheduled school closures to provide effective support for parents and vulnerable families, for example, in supporting home learning?
- How can schools be supported to help identify parents/carers who are struggling in the context of future unscheduled school closures and to facilitate access to effective support including mental health support
How did we get these results?
This review is called a ‘rapid review’ to reflect the constraints in delivering a systematic review in a short space of time. The reviewsynthesises the research evidence from 32 studies on harms relating to the impact of lockdown and school closures in the UK. In the absence of evidence on mitigations from existing systematic reviews that were sufficiently relevant to the harms identified, we drew on advice from academic experts.
This report should be cited as: Christie H, Hiscox LV, Candy B, Vigurs C, Creswell C, Halligan SL (2021) Mitigating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on parents and carers during school closures: a rapid evidence review. London: EPPI Centre, UCL Social Research Institute, University College London.