Majority of parents believe children now face mix of classroom and home schooling

Nearly half of parents will consider Covid-19 measures put in place before allowing children return to school

Over a fifth (22 per cent) of Irish parents have experienced a reduction in household income due to Covid-19. A similar number (21 per cent) have found that the extra cost of feeding their children when home-schooling had the biggest effect on household finances

As to going back to school, 59 per cent of parents believed there will be a mix of home schooling and classroom for the new term while nearly half (49 per cent) said they would carefully consider the measures put in place in schools before deciding whether to send their children back to school.

The findings come from the annual Republic of Ireland school-costs survey commissioned by the Irish League of Credit Unions and carried out by i-Reach Insights last June when 948 parents of school going children were surveyed.

Upwards of 42 per cent of the parents worried about their child’s mental health for the upcoming term if they did not return to school in a full-time classroom setting, with a further 41 per cent concerned about their children catching up on missed teaching.

Forty-two per cent of parents also were concerned that their children might have fallen behind in class as a result of home-schooling during the lockdown, while 23 per cent said they would struggle with returning to work if schools do not reopen fully.

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown last March, 36 per cent of parents believed their children were spending too much time watching TV or on mobile devices (32 per cent) as a result of being home-schooled. A third of parents (33 per cent) also believed their children were missing their friends from school and might be lonely as a result.

Over a quarter (27 per cent) of the parents surveyed were getting into debt to cover the costs of back to school. While this figure is down from 36 per cent in 2019, the average debt parents find themselves in has increased by €40 from €357 to €397.

Spend on school items for primary school students at €1,123, is up €174 from last year, while in secondary schools, parents’ average spend is €1,467, up €68 on last year.

The top expense in 2020 for parents of primary school children is after-school care, at an average of €200, up from €117 in 2019. For second-level parents the biggest expense is books at €196, which is down from €220 last year.

More positively, 66 per cent of parents said that covering the cost of back to school is a financial burden, down from 78 per cent last year, while 37 per cent consider back-to-school costs a main concern in getting their children ready for the new term. This is down from 50 per cent in 2019.

It was also found that 66 per cent of parents now shop online for school supplies, a huge rise of 15 per cent from 2019. Over a third (34 per cent) cut back on family holidays to cover back-to-school costs, with a quarter cutting back on summer camps.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times