84% of parents say their mental health and well-being has been negatively affected by the disruption to schooling over the past year.
This compares to 45% of parents in England saying the same. Urgent action is needed to alleviate the pressures they face.
Not only are 84% of parents saying their mental health and well-being has been negatively affected by the disruption to schooling, but 70% say they are more worried now about the impact of the pandemic on their child's education than they were last March when schools first closed for the majority of children (compared to only 26% in England).
The survey also asked parents to select the three biggest challenges that they face with schools being closed to most pupils. The top option selected by over half (56%) of parents was 'juggling work and home schooling', followed by 'motivating my child to do their work' (51%). Whilst the 'impact on parent/child relationship as constantly on their back as parent and teacher' cut across every demographic of parent, averaging 38%, 'supporting a child with a disability or challenging behaviour with limited or no respite' was selected by 38% of parents of a child with SEN. The survey also found that parents of a child with SEN are more likely to report a large negative impact on their mental health owing to the disruption to their child’s schooling (38% versus 26% of non-SEN parents).
Parentkind's Head of Northern Ireland Jayne Thompson said, "Stark differences between the impact of current arrangements on parents' mental health in NI compared to England show that, although there is rightly a lot of talk about regulating children's well-being as they return to school, parents need support too. Parentkind calls on the government to provide more encouragement to employers to accommodate employees who are juggling work with overseeing their child's remote learning at home. This will be crucial in the event of further lockdowns or periods of pupil self-isolation where there are localised Covid-19 outbreaks in schools. We have seen this issue impact most severely on mothers who have been most called-upon to support their child's learning from home. Attention must be given as to how this inequality can be addressed, to alleviate the stress and pressure placed on all families."
Siobhán O'Neill, Interim Mental Health Champion NI, adds, “This report highlights the impact that the disruption to schooling has had on NI parents’ psychological wellbeing during the pandemic and will be a valuable tool which can be used to underpin DoH and DE strategies to address the province’s mental health needs. It is very concerning that nearly twice as many NI parents have reported a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing when compared to England. I agree that there is a clear need for employers to consider the provision of additional support for working parents, particularly lone parents, at this time.”
Coronavirus parent survey results Northern Ireland March 2021
A short online survey, promoted to parents of school age children in Northern Ireland via social media, was active between 9pm on 9th February and 8am on 17th February 2021. 840 parents took part in the survey. Parents with more than one child were invited to answer some of the questions for a second child. 184 parents did so. Not every parent answered every question. Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding. ‘Prefer not to say’ responses are excluded from SEN/not SEN calculations.