Learning through lockdown

Findings from the 2020 Adult Participation in Learning Survey

The 2020 Adult Participation in Learning Survey explores people’s experiences of learning since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic and the national lockdown introduced on 23 March 2020. This includes why people chose to learn through lockdown, how they learnt, the barriers they experienced, and their intentions to continue learning in the future.

The survey found that there had been high levels of participation in learning during lockdown. Over two in five (43%) – 22 million people across the UK – had taken part in some form of ‘lockdown learning’.

However, participation varied enormously across different groups, with those who could most benefit being least likely to take part;

  • Just one in five (20%) adults who left school at the first opportunity took part in lockdown learning, compared to three in five (57%) adults who stayed in education until 21;
  • Adults in lower socio economic groups (29%) were half as likely to take part in lockdown learning compared to adults in higher socio economic groups (57%);
  • Just one in three (34%) adults who were out of work took part in lockdown learning, compared to over half (52%) of those who were in employment.

Learning and Work Institute has been undertaking the Adult Participation in Learning Survey on an almost annual basis for over 20 years. The survey provides a unique overview of the level of participation in learning by adults, with a detailed breakdown of who participates and who does not.

The survey deliberately adopts a broad definition of learning, including a wide range of formal, non-formal and informal learning, far beyond the limits of publicly offered educational opportunities for adults. Each year, a representative sample of approximately 5,000 adults aged 17 and over across the UK are provided with the following definition of learning and asked when they last took part, as well as how likely they are to take part in learning during the next three years:

‘Learning can mean practising, studying or reading about something. It can also mean being taught, instructed or coached. This is so you can develop skills, knowledge, abilities or understanding of something. Learning can also be called education or training. You can do it regularly (each day or month) or you can do it for a short period of time. It can be full time, or part time, done at home, at work, or in another place like a college. Learning does not have to lead to a qualification. We are interested in any learning you have done, whether or not it was finished.’

In previous years, the survey has been conducted face to face. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 survey was conducted via telephone. The results of the 2020 survey are therefore not directly comparable with previous years.

Further information about the methodology can be found in the Annex in the report.

The event which accompanied the report was conducted as part of our role as the UK National Coordinator for the European Agenda for Adult Learning.