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Homeschooling in Lockdown: Google search trends reveal which school subjects parents need help with the most

Image credit: @awcreativeut via Unsplash

Since COVID-19 forced nationwide school closures, parents have needed to brush up on their school knowledge to help tutor their children at home. A @ClarksShoes survey of over 1,000 UK parents, combined with analysis of @Google search trends, reveals all about the lockdown homeschooling experience.

Commissioned by Clarks, the survey found that the most enjoyable subjects for parents to teach are maths (49%), English (43%), history (27%), science (26%), and art (25%). Despite being deemed enjoyable, some of these subjects have also been challenging. Nearly a third of those surveyed said maths has been the most difficult to teach, followed by English (17%), science (15%), foreign languages (12%), history (7%) and I.T. (7%).

To get help with homeschooling, over half (52%) of the nation’s parents turn to Google. Those in Brighton rely on search engines the most (82%). In fact, it’s the most commonly used homeschooling tool for parents across the UK, except for those in Sheffield, Southampton and Newcastle; parents here would rather go straight to BBC Bitesize or similar online education resources.

Virtual lessons held by celebrities have also been popular – whether it’s P.E. with Joe Wicks or David Attenborough’s geography classes, nearly a quarter (24%) of UK parents cited this as a homeschooling resource. Looking at who is adopting this new format for learning, a quarter of women teaching their kids have claimed to be tuning in, compared to only a fifth of men. It was also found that parents aged 25-34 use them more than any other age group.

Analysis of Google search data shows that searches around geography have increased by 398% on average since April 2019. The average search volume for other subjects has also soared, including maths (299%), history (269%), English (264%) and science (252%). 

With 49,500 searches a month, ‘how to work out percentages’ is the most common maths question parents look for answers to online. But it’s ‘what is a factor in maths’ that has seen the biggest spike in maths-related searches by far, with a huge 2,485% increase compared to April 2019. In English, ‘what is a verb’ is searched for 40,500 times a month – an increase of 334%. ‘How many bones in the human body’ is the science question which has seen a 914% surge in Google searches since April last year, with those in Liverpool searching for this the most. In geography, ‘what is photosynthesis’ may only have a monthly search volume of 6,600, but this is a 224% increase on April 2019. Whilst in history, ‘who discovered penicillin’ has leapt 503% in the same period.
Top 20 Most Googled English Questions in the UKTop 20 Most Googled English Questions in the UKTop 20 Most Googled English Questions in the UK

These search spikes correlate with what respondents said about topics they’ve learned (or re-learned) since homeschooling their kids. In English, a quarter of parents reported learning what verbs, nouns, pronouns and adjectives are, and in maths, 23% said they’ve learned how to work with fractions and decimals. Around 1 in 7 said they’ve learned the basics for introducing themselves and asking questions in a foreign language.

When asked how easy or difficult it has been to find the answers needed to help with homeschooling, parents across the country have a varied experience. In Liverpool, 6% say it’s been impossible to find the information or help they need – that’s more than anywhere else in the UK. At the other end of the scale are parents in Plymouth, where 36% say it has been very easy to find exactly what they’re looking for almost immediately (compared to 17% of the UK who said the same). Parents of kids aged 15-18 say they had the most difficulty overall with finding the information they needed to help teach their kids at home, suggesting that learning materials for GCSE and A-Level students are scarce.

Rosie McKissock, Kids Business Manager at Clarks, said:

“While some schools around the UK began to reopen on June 1st, limited classroom sizes means that some parents will be continuing with their homeschooling schedule. We wanted to understand what this experience has been like so far for parents. Overall, it’s been quite an eye-opener, with 3 in 10 parents surveyed saying their biggest takeaway from their homeschooling experience is they’ll respect and appreciate teachers a lot more, and 23% commenting on how easy it is for adults to forget what they learnt in school. As a parent myself, I totally recognise what this survey describes. It’s been a humbling experience taking on home school for two young children, realising the patience involved in teaching kids as well as the revelation of just how much you have forgotten (or perhaps never knew in the first place!).

While the majority of our high street stores remain closed at the moment, we’re continuing our commitment at Clarks to help parents prepare for sending their children back to school when they’re happy to do so. Our foot gauges come in two different sizes, allowing parents to measure and fit their children’s school shoes at home, with step-by-step instructions available on our website or direct from our customer service team to help with the process.

See the full report to find out more about the survey results, or to read more about how Google searches have changed amidst homeschooling.

Other images: Clarks

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