Most parents have fears over children’s learning during pandemic

More than half of all families have experienced mental health issues

Nearly a quarter of primary schoolchildren spent less than an hour a day learning last year, a survey by children’s charity Barnardo’s has found.

It says 52 per cent of Irish families encountered mental health issues during the Covid-19 pandemic, with half reporting tensions in the home and 54 per cent saying they had experienced financial concerns.

The results of the charity’s annual back-to-school survey are based on online responses from 1,473 parents, 1,023 of whom had children in primary school with the remaining 450 having children in second level, and a further 121 from children and young people.

The survey is not based on a representative sample of the population, but Barnardo's said it mirrored studies carried out by agencies including the Central Statistics Office (CSO).


It found that 60 per cent of primary school and almost 70 per cent of secondary school parents were concerned about the educational development of their children.

Parents said 23 per cent of primary school children and 9 per cent of those in secondary had spent less than an hour a day learning in the past year, with schools closed and children learning remotely at times due to the pandemic.

Half of all parents (49 per cent) were not confident that their children would get the support they needed to make up for the school time they missed out on.

Increased costs

The findings show that parents and their families faced increased adversity and difficulties over the past year, particularly lone and unemployed parents. A substantial proportion were concerned that these adversities may have had an impact on their children.

Barnado's chief executive Suzanne Connolly called on the Government to publish promised plans to address the additional educational support needs of children and to do so before they return to school in September.

“Schools should be provided the autonomy and flexibility to respond effectively to the individual level of need among children in their school and determine the support required,” she said.

“These plans need to be communicated to parents to help ease their concerns and focus on those most impacted by the pandemic and home schooling and those who faced educational disadvantage before lockdown.”

The survey found that half of parents were worried about the cost of returning to school, with a third saying that meeting these would be more difficult this year as a result of Covid-19.

Increased uniform and schoolbook costs were noted by about half of primary school parents and almost two-thirds of parents who had children in second-level.

Barnardos research and evaluation manager Gráinne Kent said the survey looked at key demographics and education level in the respondents.

She said it may even be under-representative of the impact that the pandemic has had on children and their parents as parents in lower socioeconomic groups might not participate in it.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times