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News announcement13 November 2020

Lessons from lockdown: families adapt to remote schooling, but more support needed

Families played a huge role in helping children keep up with schooling during the first COVID-19 lockdown.

Almost all children surveyed were able to conduct some school-related activities using digital technologies
Almost all children surveyed were able to conduct some school-related activities using digital technologies
© Kelly Sikkema, 2020

Families played a huge role in helping children keep up with schooling during the first COVID-19 lockdown, according to a JRC analysis of survey data from parents and children across 11 European countries.

Almost all children surveyed were able to conduct some school-related activities using digital technologies, and many reported that their schools had provided them with both digital communication and learning platforms.

Parents helped to fill the gaps with educational activities, as well as moral support. More than half of parents surveyed said they supplemented their children’s learning with free online materials, such as videos and quizzes.

Offline learning materials, like books and TV were also popular, albeit to a lesser extent: less than 50% of parents in France, Italy, Norway, Slovenia and Spain said they used these materials.

Not all families have the capacities, resources or time to provide this additional support effectively.

According to Eurostat, in the EU 36% of adults with children have low overall digital skills and some parents had not accessed the internet at all in the 3 months prior to the survey.

A significant proportion of children – between 24% and 43% of those surveyed in each country –said they were worried about not keeping up with schoolwork during lockdown. Parents were generally more worried than the children themselves.

Impact of school closure
Worrying about the impact of Covid-19 on education: the bars show the mean replies for children worrying about keeping up with schoolwork (blue) and parents worrying on its impact on their child’s education (orange).
© EU 2020

The majority of parents surveyed felt they would have benefited from more guidance on distance education and homework, as well as on extracurricular activities and supporting children psychologically during confinement.

The report recommends that education authorities and schools consider providing such guidelines.

The frequency of contact with teachers varied both within countries and across the EU. Over 75% of children surveyed in Italy, Norway, Portugal and Romania said they had daily online interactions with their teachers.

But this varied considerably across Europe: 50-75% in France, Ireland, Spain and Switzerland, and 34-41% in Austria, Germany and Slovenia had the same daily interactions.

Interactions daily, weekly and less frequently.
Interactions daily, weekly and less frequently.
© EU 2020

Analysis of the survey reveals considerable variations in teacher contact but also children’s widespread concern about keeping up with schoolwork.

In general, if students are left alone with their learning, they need many skills to cope and succeed, from digital skills to self-directed learning and perseverance.

The authors argue that children need help to develop these skills and attitudes to learn effectively when remote schooling is necessary.

The JRC’s LifeComp framework is designed to foster such resilience. It focuses on teaching methods to help learners:

  • be self-aware and better manage their emotions, thoughts and behaviour;
  • build social and emotional skills;
  • have positive belief in their potential to continuously learn.

The JRC is currently collecting examples of such methods to inspire educators to adapt and replicate them in their classrooms.

The report was released ahead of the Commission’s annual Education and Training Monitor, which analyses how education and training is evolving in the EU and its Member States. This year, the 2020 Monitor has a special focus on teaching and learning in the digital age.

The coronavirus crisis demonstrated the importance of digital solutions for teaching and learning and highlighted existing weaknesses. The results are presented today at the Digital Education Hackathon.

The results of the study also correspond to the trends identified in the public consultation conducted ahead of the Commission’s Digital Education Action Plan 2021-2027. The Action Plan, adopted on 30 September, sets out the EU’s ambitious vision for high-quality, inclusive and accessible digital education in Europe.

It is a call to action for stronger cooperation at European level to learn from the coronavirus crisis and make education and training systems fit for the digital age.

Its two strategic priorities are to foster the development of a high-performing digital education ecosystem and to enhance digital skills and competences for the digital transformation. These priorities will be supported by the launch of a European Digital Education Hub.

The European Skills Agenda for sustainable competitiveness, social fairness and resilience highlights that digital skills are key for the recovery. It outlines several actions to boost the digital skills required to master the green and digital transitions, and people need to help people get the right education and training to thrive in life.

In terms of fostering digital skills, the JRC’s DigComp framework is another useful tool. By defining what it takes to be digitally competent, the framework acts a reference point for identifying skills needs, assessing competences and cataloguing, developing and delivering digital skills for all citizens from parents to children.


The JRC report 'How families handled emergency remote schooling during the Covid-19 lockdown in spring 2020' provides a first glance at how families coped in this unprecedented situation.

The study analyses survey data on perceptions of remote schooling activities from parents and their children (10-18 years old) in nine EU countries (Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain), as well as Switzerland and Norway.

The surveys were carried out as part of the JRC Kids' Digital lives in COVID-19 Times (KiDiCoTi) project. The project gathers data to map the evolution of children's digital engagement during the coronavirus lock-down, with a particular focus on children’s online safety, privacy and well-being.

More in-depth analysis of this data will be made available throughout 2020-2021, including looking further into how much parental engagement correlates with the level of worry that parents expressed about Covid-19.

The fact that children worried about getting poor grades during lockdown raises several questions: how did schools implement online teaching activities? Did students have the proper equipment? What was their readiness to learn in such a setting? A forthcoming JRC study will aim to address these questions by interviewing teachers and heads of schools in five countries.

Related Content

JRC science for policy report: How families handled emergency remote schooling during the Covid-19 lockdown in spring 2020


Publication date
13 November 2020