Teachers should provide online support during closures – Department

National Parents Council says supports from schools and teachers vary significantly

Some working parents say they are struggling to home school their children with little support from their teachers or schools. Stock photograph: iStock

Some working parents say they are struggling to home school their children with little support from their teachers or schools. Stock photograph: iStock

 

The Department of Education has told teachers they are expected to provide lessons and support for students during the coronavirus school closures.

While many teachers are providing online support and lesson plans for students, some working parents say they are struggling to home school their children with little support from their teachers or schools.

The National Parents Council Primary said it was aware of very mixed experiences among parents in terms of the level of support from schools.

In a statement, a department spokesman said education continuity will be a critical service during the coming months for pupils and students.

“In that respect, all schools and educational institutions are expected to proactively ensure that all of their staff contribute to the continuation of educational provision during this period,” the spokesman said.

List of resources

However, one working parent of two children said little had been done at her primary school apart from providing long lists of online resources.

“I can see from the huge amount of WhatsApp messages from other mothers that many of us are struggling to maintain our productivity while trying to organise children at home,” the parents said.

“I don’t have the time to plan a full working day and plan a school day for two kids and set up all the logins, etc, for these resources.”

Another parent, who declined to be named, said: “I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect one piece of work at least to be set each day which the kids could photograph and email back to a teacher for feedback. It’s not possible nor reasonable to expect kids to just keep working on websites.”

Most secondary schools are using virtual learning platforms online to enable teachers to provide work for students, particularly for students in examination classes, and to enable students to complete tasks and tests for assessment.

At primary school, the level of support tends to vary with some schools sending workpacks for children to complete at home, and others providing assignments online.

Structured support

Áine Lynch of the National Parents Council primary said that overall there was a need for more structured support and it was not fair to expect parents to replicate the role of teachers at home.

“We’re getting mixed messages from parents on the level of support they are getting from schools. Because they closed so suddenly, there has been a lot of confusion over what expectations there are,” she said.

“There is a clear need for more structure and we understand that work is happening behind the scenes on this.”

However, Ms Lynch cautioned that there was no simple one-size-fits-all solution for all schools or classes, such as broadcasting classes online.

Instead, she said schools should work as closely as possible with parents to create solutions.

“In primary, pupils need more support which can’t easily be done remotely. Teachers aren’t just standing there teaching a class; there is a lot of nuance and individualised support that goes on,” she said.

“For now, we’re saying that as long as parents are trying to engage their children in fun learning activities at home, that is good enough.”

Broadband

However, the issue of poor access to broadband in rural areas has emerged as an issue for some schools and students.

A spokesman for the department said it would work with education partners to provide solutions in areas where digital and remote learning options may not be possible.

“Work is under way to provide guidance to schools about how best to use digital and other solutions to provide ongoing learning for students at this time,” the spokesman said.

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