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Homeschooling Wi-Fi issues

Child doing homeschooling

As UK families adjust to a third national lockdown and the challenges of homeschooling again, Uswitch surveyed more than 2000 parents to find out just how the nation's homeschooling parents and children are coping this time around. Additionally, we analysed Google search trends in the UK to determine the most googled English, Maths and Science questions we all have now kids are studying full-time at home.

Parents balancing work and school 

Of the families we surveyed, over two thirds had at least one primary caregiver working at home during school hours. Meanwhile, Greater London was the region with the greatest number of families with two primary caregivers working from home during the school day.

With schooling once again falling under the supervision of parents, we found that 57% of working families surveyed had only one parent change their working hours to meet homeschooling demands. Whereas, 43% of families had both caregivers change their work schedule.

Our survey identified a homeschooling gender imbalance among participants, with women’s jobs twice as likely to have been disrupted by homeschooling than men. Of the employed parents surveyed, 36% identified they have changed their hours but their partner hasn’t. Of this group, 71% were women. Additionally, women were most likely to be the primary caregiver of their children (making up 70% of the primary caregivers surveyed).

Regardless of gender, 1 in 5 parents said that working at the same time as their child's remote learning was the most challenging aspect of homeschooling. While one in four parents stated they are now expected to perform the role of teachers.

YouGov data, from January 18 2021, revealed that 23% of the UK think education is the most important issue facing the country currently. If you are searching for homeschooling support, check out our remote schooling guide.

Homeschooling increasing mental health concerns in children

Lockdowns can be especially stressful when you need to juggle your career, take care of your home life and manage your child’s education. Our survey found that parents are experiencing more stress, with one in five parents expressing feelings of guilt because they aren’t spending enough time with their children.

Parents are concerned about ensuring their children are happy despite the unpredictability of a pandemic. One in four parents stated that ensuring their child’s mental health isn’t negatively affected as their biggest homeschooling challenge. 

One in three parents feel that homeschooling has negatively impacted their child. Of these parents, 58% felt their child is more isolated and detached socially as a result of homeschooling.

More than half of these parents said their child’s motivation to learn and concentrate has been negatively affected, with parents of 1-4 year old children expressing the biggest concern. While 25% of parents said poor sleep, such as bad dreams and falling asleep later, was a major concern for their child because of homeschooling. Fitness and anxiety has suffered for more than one in four children, according to the parents surveyed. Overall, a fifth of parents are concerned about their child’s happiness overall. 

Beyond managing their child’s mental health, parents are also managing increased arguments at home. Almost half of the families we surveyed have experienced increased arguments at home. This is especially true for families with primary school children (53%) compared to families with children in further education (30%). The top three argument trigger points for families were homeschooling stressors (26%), children not behaving (24%), and balancing work with home life (20%). 

Lack of homeschooling resources for all children

Accessing suitable tech for homeschooling is a concern for many disadvantaged families. Our survey found that 2% of families asked had no access to an electronic device with internet access during school hours. However, many children have to share access to equipment with siblings. Our survey revealed that children in crucial GCSE years are having to share vital tech, such as laptops (15%) and computers (13%) during school hours. 

A third of the parents we surveyed have spent additional money on buying electrical equipment for their child’s homeschooling needs, averaging at £130. However, this cost increases to an average of £219 when including all homeschool expenses such as setting up a homeschooling space with printers and desks, as well as tutors and stationary. 

If you are concerned your child is at risk of falling behind due to lack of access to resources, contacting your child’s school to find out if you qualify for extra help would be a great place to start. Additionally, the Government has recently announced the get help with tech scheme which aims to support disadvantaged children with internet access and laptops.

For more tips and advice on helping your child learn from home in lockdown, take a look at our guide to remote schooling.

What parents are searching for online for homeschooling help 

We analysed Google search trends in the UK to determine the most googled English, Maths and Science questions and other recent trends since children started homeschooling due to national lockdowns.

For many parents it has been a long time since they did school maths problems. Searches for 'what are prime numbers' saw a 233% increase from December 2019 to December 2020.

Fractions, ratio and percentages were knowledge gaps for many with seven out of ten of the top searches focused around these topics.

Searches for English terms also increased year on year, with kids learning at home. Popular searches included 'what is an adverb' (50% increase), 'what is a rhyme' (60% increase) and 'what is an adjective' (50% increase).

Meanwhile, the most popular searches for school Science were anatomy and space related. 'How many bones in human body' increased 124% year on year! While DNA, enzymes and genetics also featured in the most searched terms in December.

Homeschooling Wi-Fi issues

It wasn't just exclusively subject terms that increased in December 2020. Searches for 'test my broadband speed' increased significantly by 83% year on year. While searches for 'what is my broadband speed' increased 24% in December 2020 compared to 2019.

With children logging on to learn online it is likely that you have more devices than usual connected to your home broadband during the day.

Our survey found that one in three homeschooling families have had issues with their broadband. When asked further, parents identified slow speed (21%), poor connection (19%) and the internet crashing (17%) as the three main issues with their broadband while homeschooling. 

Due to these demands, 15% of the parents we surveyed had switched or upgraded their broadband provider since starting homeschooling. If you are concerned about your broadband check out our cheap broadband deals to ensure you have the fastest service at the cheapest price in your area. 

How to improve your router problems

With the added pressure of video call classes and team work meetings how can you ensure your broadband is up to the task? These are five quick fixes for common router problems: 

  1. Reboot your router — the classic ‘unplug it, leave it 30 seconds and plug it back in’. 

  2. Location, location, location — if your router is located further away than it needs to be, try moving it to the room you’re most active in or the centre of your home. 

  3. Disconnect unnecessary devices — turn the Wi-Fi off on gadgets you’re not using, even if they’re in a drawer. They may be using bandwidth in the background.

  4. Run a speed test this will determine whether your router is running at the speeds you signed up for.

  5. Purchase a Wi-Fi extender or ‘booster’ — this will optimise your broadband for faster and stronger connections.

How to improve your Wi-Fi issues

Our broadband expert Nick Baker has offered his top advice on how to fix the most common Wi-Fi issues at home. 

Why is my internet so slow?

"If you’re suffering from painfully slow internet speeds then it could be down to a change in your household usage habits - like a new online homeschooling routine or working from home. 

"Slow internet can lead to poor video connection, which is not ideal when children lose out on crucial online learning or tutoring. Try streamlining your computer by shutting down or removing any unnecessary programs and applications that you’re not actively using but may be eating into your broadband connection."

How do I know what internet speeds I currently have?

"Over the last year, households have had to adjust, adapt and change their everyday routines and relying on your broadband has become the everyday norm in makeshift classrooms and home offices. Basic broadband speeds may struggle to keep up, especially with multiple people relying on the same router for a day's work. 

"If you feel that your internet isn’t living up to expectation, run a speed test. You’ll be able to see whether your broadband is running at the pace it should be. If it’s not, try resetting your router and if that doesn’t work, have a chat with your provider to see if there is anything slowing your connection down."

Why does my Wi-Fi drop connection?

"If there are certain areas of your home that you find your signal is weaker, it may be due to an item blocking the connection. Large objects, furniture or electronic devices such as gaming consoles, lamps, speakers, TVs and monitors can obstruct a connection, so it’s best to store your router off the ground and away from these items. 

"Always plug your router into a master socket, not an extension lead. Steer clear from putting your router behind the sofa or a door too - although it may look neater, it could impact your connection."

Why am I fighting the family for Wi-Fi?

"It’s been a while since the days of dial-up internet, when you had the option of using only the internet or your home phone at one time, yet so many households are at war over Wi-Fi.

"UK families have a growing collection of internet guzzling gadgets - many of which tend to be connected to Wi-Fi at all times. Both national lockdown and tiered restrictions have pushed us to depend on our internet connection for longer durations of the day, with more devices than usual. 

"Many families will have gaming consoles which can be a major culprit in the hunt for who’s hogging the internet. If no one is using the console, disconnect it or any other internet-dependent devices which do not need to be connected to Wi-Fi at that time. 

"Even if a tablet has been ‘put away’ during school hours it may be using the internet as part of its ‘background refreshing’ process. Disconnect the device or put it on Airplane Mode before putting it away."

Still struggling?

"If you have a larger home or a lot of rooms that your broadband needs to reach, try purchasing a Wi-Fi extender or ‘booster’. They’re fairly inexpensive and may be the solution for your internet woes. If that’s not an option, it may be time to speak to your provider or switch to a faster broadband deal."

How can I speak to my provider?

"If you’re unhappy with your broadband or the service you’ve been provided, you’ll want to know how to complain to your network. 

"If you’re unsure how to contact your supplier, check out our useful guide highlighting the multiple ways to reach out to your network."

Ready for a new provider? Check out the best broadband provider for you and compare broadband deals.

Methodology

Uswitch surveyed 2,008 UK parents that are currently homeschooling their children in primary school, secondary school or further education (A-levels). 

Additionally, Uswitch calculated the most searched homeschooling English, Maths and Science questions. Using the Government’s National Curriculum for Excellence: Experiences and Outcomes for Primary School education, key subjects were analysed to determine likely search terms based on core outcomes and subjects. Ahrefs Keywords Explorer was used to determine phrase matching. Using Google Ads Keyword Planner, search volume data was analysed with the top 10 searched terms selected for the report.

Sources:

https://education.gov.scot/Documents/numeracy-maths-eo.pdf

https://www.gov.uk/national-curriculum/key-stage-1-and-2

https://www.education.gov.scot/Documents/sciences-eo.pdf

https://dera.ioe.ac.uk/3007/1/Excellence%20in%20English.pdf

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/educationandchildcare/articles/coronavirusandhomeschoolingingreatbritain/apriltojune2020