Coronavirus: One-fifth of parents fearful of secondary schools reopening

Half of primary school parents are worried about Covid-19 – Barnardos survey

Three out of five children and young people (60 per cent) said they are worried about Covid-19 when they think of returning to school. Photograph: iStock

Three out of five children and young people (60 per cent) said they are worried about Covid-19 when they think of returning to school. Photograph: iStock

 

More than a fifth of parents with children in post-primary schools said they would prefer if their child was not returning to school in order to reduce the risk of contracting Covid-19, according to a survey from Barnardos.

While 16 per cent of parents with children in primary school don’t want them to return to school due to fears over the virus, this rises to 21 per cent in relation to parents with children in post-primary education.

The Barnardos Back to School Survey 2020, published on Thursday, finds the majority of parents think it is important for their children to return to school though 50 per cent of primary school parents and 53 per cent of post-primary school parents are worried.

The survey found that back-to-school costs for this year are on average €330-€365 for primary school students and €735 for post-primary students. Overall costs at primary level are slightly down on last year while costs at post-primary level remain unchanged.

Insufficient information

The survey involved more than 1,760 parents being interviewed earlier this month. The majority of parents felt they had insufficient information about their child’s return to school (73 per cent of primary school parents, 65 per cent of post-primary parents).

The majority said balancing work and home-schooling was difficult with a large proportion (44 per cent of primary school and 48 per cent of post-primary parents) finding managing technology for online learning difficult.

About a quarter (23 per cent) of both primary and post-primary parents said they didn’t have ready access to the required technology for their child to learn remotely.

While half of parents felt they were sent the right amount of work by their schools, over a quarter (25 per cent of primary and 31 per cent of post-primary parents) felt they did not receive enough support from their child’s school.

Over half of parents also said they incurred additional costs this year due to their child not being in school from March to June.

A significant proportion of parents say they are either cutting back on other costs, not paying bills, or are taking loans to cover their back-to-school costs (41 per cent primary; 50 per cent post-primary).

Of those who had to borrow, 31 per cent took a loan from a credit union or bank, 29 per cent used credit cards, 27 per cent borrowed from family or friends while 13 per cent went to a money lender.

Challenge

Suzanne Connolly, chief executive of Barnardos, said a separate survey of 225 primary and post-primary students revealed that many found learning from home a challenge.

“Many more had mixed feelings, both about being at home during school closures and going back to school,” Ms Connolly said.

“Children and young people told us they missed their friends and many missed their teachers too. Some were excited about the return to school, while others worried whether they would be safe, would they pass the virus on to loved ones, or how would social distancing work. Some also worried about the impact on their learning and exams.”

Two out of five children said they feel positive about returning to school; but one in five feel negative. Three out of five children and young people (60 per cent) said they are worried about Covid-19 when they think of returning to school.

The children’s charity has called for implementation guidelines and timelines to accompany the Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Schools.

It also said principals and teachers should have access to Continuing Professional Development (CPD), wellbeing training and other resources to enable staff to help children cope with the transition back to school.

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