More than a quarter of parents say children’s learning suffered during lockdown

Poor school communication and lack of time to support learning cited as key factors

Parents of children with a disability and those with children in the senior primary classes were more likely to feel their child was not learning enough. Photograph: iStock

Parents of children with a disability and those with children in the senior primary classes were more likely to feel their child was not learning enough. Photograph: iStock

 

More than a quarter of parents feel their children’s education has suffered during the Covid-19 school closures, according to new research.

The study by academics at Trinity College Dublin found that poor school communication, lack of parent time to support learning and inadequate broadband were some of the key factors cited by parents as impacting on their child’s learning at primary school.

Just over half of parents surveyed said they were confident their children continued to learn enough during school closure

However, parents of children with a disability and those with children in the senior primary classes were more likely to feel their child was not learning enough.

The findings are based on a survey of 800 parents between May and June this year. It aligns with research involving the National Parents’ Council which indicates that half of parents feel their children are learning less during school closures.

Communication

Parents were generally happy with the level of communication from schools with 79 per cent saying it was “excellent” or “good”.

However, schools that communicated solely to provide work for students had significantly worse ratings.

When parents had contact with multiple people in the school - such as a teacher, principal, special needs assistant - they were more likely to rate communications as excellent.

Where parents said there was poor communication from schools, some of the factors included one-way communication, not providing feedback, limited social presence and limited opportunities for interaction.

As one parent commented: “There is a complete lack of consistency with each school’s approach. Other primary schools in my area have continued to deliver lessons on Zoom - there has been no class since lockdown. My daughter has lost all interest; each week they send a long list of work but do not correct it.”

By contrast, another commented: “The school has been excellent, and we cannot expect too much of them as they have their own families to care for.”

Support

During lockdown parents reported engaging in learning activities beyond schoolwork, such as reading and writing, exercising, baking and gardening. This was particularly true for parents with younger school children.

The report found that three-quarters of parents felt highly confident in supporting their child’s learning at home. Schools supports were a major factor in this confidence as well as knowing what was important for the child to learn and having the time to help.

However, 14 per cent felt they were not able to help their child, with parents of children with disabilities feeling less able.

As one parent said: “It is extremely stressful trying to ensure the children have access to digital devices and internet, do their schoolwork with them to a good quality and also have to work myself. I feel like I am not giving enough time to either my children or my own work.”

Technology

One fifth of households did not have access to a good internet connection, while in most homes an average of three household members were relying on a range of different devices for work or study.

Tablets were readily available in most homes regardless of socio-economic status, but laptops or desktop computers were less likely in households where parents were unemployed or did not have a third-level education.

Some parents complained of schools sending material which needed to be printed out, while they did not have a printer at home.

The quality of broadband connection was also a big issue, with many saying the connection was poor in homes where children and parents were reliant on it during the day.

Dr Ann Devitt, director of research at Trinity’s school of education said it was clear that greater support is required for parents to support home learning.

“We would advise parents to continue to extend all the family learning and family literacy practices they are already doing,” she said.

“ The key message from this report is that family learning is effective. All of the everyday activities which develop literacy, numeracy and other learning are hugely valuable for children whether as part of household chores or leisure activity.

“They provide a meaningful context in which children can learn and practice their developing skills. There are many useful resources available online to support and enhance these practices in simple ways.”