Majority of Irish children say pandemic homeschooling impaired learning

Mental health of some second-level students also negatively impacted, study finds

Some 52 per cent of primary schoolchildren said they learned less at home than in school, while 71.8 per cent of post-primary students said they learned a lot or a little less. Photograph: iStock

Some 52 per cent of primary schoolchildren said they learned less at home than in school, while 71.8 per cent of post-primary students said they learned a lot or a little less. Photograph: iStock

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A majority of Irish children feel their learning was negatively impacted by homeschooling during the pandemic, with learning out of the classroom also negatively impacting the mental health of some second-level students, data from an unpublished study shows.

The data was gathered by academics from NUI Galway working with the National Parents Council, and takes in the views of more than 1,000 primary and secondary school-aged children around the country.

It comes as teacher unions warned that some schools may have to reopen on a staggered basis due to expected difficulties in preparing for a return of students in late August.

Some 52 per cent of primary schoolchildren said they learned less at home than in school, while 71.8 per cent of post-primary students said they learned a lot or a little less. The secondary school students also reported that their interest in schooling at home had dwindled over the period, with 65.3 per cent saying it had decreased a little or a lot.

Mental health

Some 14.6 per cent of secondary students said it had a very negative effect on their mental health. Another 29.6 per cent said it had either quite a negative effect or a slightly negative effect. This compares with 17.2 per cent who said it had a positive effect, to some degree.

The preliminary data from the survey were shared in a draft report with the Oireachtas Special Committee on the Covid-19 Response.

Among second-level students, only 4.4 per cent said they were “really not looking forward to returning to school”, whereas 63.9 per cent said they were looking forward to it to some degree – 19 per cent of whom said they were “really looking forward” to resuming classes.

Among primary school students, 79 per cent indicated they were eager to resume school, with 38.6 per cent indicating a strong preference, and only 3.2 per cent saying they were really not looking forward to it.

A large minority of those in primary education also indicated that their enthusiasm for homeschooling had diminished during lockdown, with 42.9 per cent indicating they liked it less at the end than at the start, compared with 17.9 per cent who preferred it at the end of the period to the start.

The study also gathered data from post-primary school students on their preference for a reshaped school week, with 41.5 per cent expressing a preference for attending two to three days a week, 18.4 saying they would prefer morning or afternoon classes, and 14.5 per cent opting for week-on, week-off attendance.

The full report on the data will be released later this year.