When schools closed in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to help slow the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19), many parents felt a range of emotions. There was initial relief that they and their children would be able to self-isolate and stick to the social-distancing measures the government has recommended for all of us. Here at Parentkind we fully supported the closures as a necessary safety measure.
But parents were left with major concerns. How can they, especially those who work, manage from home when their children need home-schooling under virtual quarantine conditions? And what about the possibility of a full academic term (or more) of learning that their child will miss out on? What about those pupils in cohorts that were scheduled to take exams this summer? How best can parents support learning at home, and are they confident to do so?
This uniquely worrying time has raised many challenges and asked so many of us to address fundamental questions about family life, guiding children through a crisis, and the role of parents in education.
Many Parentkind staff are parents and have wrestled with the same questions. To gain an understanding of what parents are going through during this pandemic, we put out a survey to our social media followers to gauge their reaction. We were encouraged that in under five days, almost 700 parents (691 in total) representing 1181 school children across the three nations we operate in gave us their views. This level of engagement demonstrates the strength of feeling among parents. The results have given us a snapshot of parents’ major concerns in the week that school closures and the wider ‘stay at home’ messages were announced. Of course, the situation is changing daily, so we will check in on parents’ responses over time and keep you posted. But in the initial aftermath of school closures, this is what parents told us.
- On a scale of 1-10 (where 1 is the least worried about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on their child's education, and 10 the most worried) almost a quarter of parents (24%) selected 10/10. The average across all parents was 6.8/10.
- Parents in Northern Ireland (7.6/10) are more worried than parents in England (6.8/10) and Wales (6.4/10).
- Overall, primary school parents are slightly less concerned than secondary/post primary parents.
- Parents of children in Year 11 (who would have taken their GCSEs this academic year) are most worried (averaging 8.3/10).
- More than three quarters (77%) said the pandemic would affect their child’s education to a greater or lesser extent. On the other hand, more than one in six parents (17%) feel that the pandemic will not affect their child’s education (5% don’t know).
- Parents’ biggest concerns for their child include:
- Falling behind or missing out on learning
- Exams being cancelled
- Lack of socialisation
- The health of loved ones.
- Parents’ biggest concerns for themselves include:
- Meeting work commitments
- Financial implications
- The effect on mental health and stress levels.
- Only one in ten parents (11%) said that the crisis would have no, or very little, impact on their own lives whilst a small minority (7%) said they thought the school closures would have a positive impact (citing increased family time and reconnecting with their children).
- Less than one in five parents (19%) feel very confident to support their child’s learning at home. Another 43% are quite confident. Almost a quarter (22%) are neither confident nor unconfident and 15% are not at all confident.
What else did our research show?
We asked parents about what impact they felt the coronavirus crisis would have on their child’s learning, but also on their own lives, and family life in general. Here’s what parents told us:
Parents are worried about the negative effects school closures will have on their child's education
We asked parents how worried they were about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on their child/children’s education, on a scale of 1 – 10, where 1 was not at all and 10 was extremely worried. More parents selected 10/10, indicating that they are extremely worried, than any other score (24%). Across all parents, the average score was 6.8/10. In general, primary school parents are slightly less concerned than secondary/post primary parents, perhaps on account of the increased complexity and specialisation of learning once children transition to senior school.
Less than two thirds of parents have the confidence to support their child’s learning
Less than one in five parents (19%) feel very confident to support their child’s learning at home. But a further 43% are quite confident, revealing 62% of parents with at least partial confidence. Almost a quarter (22%) are neither confident nor unconfident and 15% are not at all confident. Parents with children in Year 6 or Year 12 are most confident, with two thirds of parents (67%) either very confident or quite confident. Conversely, parents with children in Year 13 (who would have taken their A-levels) are the least confident with more than a quarter (26%) not at all confident.
Fulfilling work commitments is the major concern parents have for their own futures
Asked about the effect school closures might have on parents, rather than their children, almost half the parents (49%) mentioned work. This was in connection to having to juggle work with childcare, but financial concerns and fear of job losses were also common themes in free text feedback.
However, on the plus side:
Home-school communication has been great
Once they had closed, 93% of parents said their child’s school has shared details of arrangements for learning at home during the closures, 7% said they hadn't. Of those 7%, it's possible that their school provided details shortly after they filled in our survey.
For further details, see the full School closures and coronavirus Parent Survey report.
We will closely monitor parents’ views as home-schooling, self-isolation, social distancing and (for many) working from home becomes the new normal, and we’ll see how, if at all, parents’ views change. Check back for updates.