Coronavirus parent survey three — July 2020

Read the findings from our third survey as we continue to monitor parents’ opinions and concerns throughout the coronavirus pandemic and school closures.

Our previous survey, which ended in early May, received over a quarter of a million responses, and the headline finding was that parents were divided over when they felt it would be safe enough to return their child to school, seeking reassurances from school leaders and policymakers alike. Our first survey took place as soon as lockdown was announced, which found a high level of concern among parents about the impact of school closures on their child’s learning even in those early stages.

Key findings 

What do parents think now?

As the academic year 2019/20 comes to a close, we can update again on parental experiences of home-learning, and fears over the lasting effect disruption to school life will have on their child. 

Parents are more engaged in their child’s learning and want the right to decide on their return

  • More than 9/10 (91%) would like to be consulted (65%), or have already been consulted (26%) by the school on how the arrangements for their child’s return would work.
  • Almost three quarters (74%) would like the right to decide whether their child attends school next term (19% did not). This comes as the government in England announces fines will be levied at parents (with some exceptions) for their child’s non-attendance from September.
  • More than two thirds (68%) would like to see government provide minimum standards of home learning provision that all schools should be expected to meet (17% would not).
  • 53% feel very engaged in their child’s learning, and 35% quite engaged, which means 88% feel engaged overall. 
  • More than half (53%) feel more engaged in their child’s learning now compared to before lockdown, with only 10% less engaged, and 37% indicating no change.
  • Despite that, a third of parents (33%) said that they felt their child was quite or very disengaged with their learning (compared to 55% who said their child was very or quite engaged in learning). Not only that, but more than half (57%) felt that their child was less engaged in their learning now compared to before lockdown.

Safety concerns remain for many parents

  • More than a quarter (26%) don’t yet know (23%) or say that they will not (3%) send their child back to school at the start of the next academic year, compared to 74% who will.
  • Concern about how social distancing will be managed (selected by two thirds [67%] of parents) was the main reason parents are undecided about their child’s return.
  • Parents in Wales were most likely to be happy to return their child to school without social distancing measures in place (53%) compared to England (33%) and Northern Ireland (46%). On average across the three nations, 40% of parents would not be happy for their child to return with no social distancing measures in place.

Parents and carers were asked to prioritise three things schools should focus on when they reopen to more pupils, with the top five being:

  • Mental wellbeing: 70%
  • Curriculum learning: 57%
  • Establishing/​rebuilding relationships with peers and staff: 50%
  • Social skills: 21%
  • Physical wellbeing: 21%

Impact on learning concerns remain for many parents

  • Although almost half (48%) said that they felt the average amount of time their child was spending on school work was about right’, an alarmingly high proportion of 42% said it was too little’.
  • This is in spite of 45% of parents overseeing their child’s school work for more than 75% of the time.
  • More than half were not very (11%) or not at all satisfied (42%) with the number of online lessons provided by the school. 20% said that they were very or quite satisfied.
  • 40% were not very or not at all satisfied with the teaching given to support work set by their child’s school, but 44% were very or quite satisfied.
  • Whilst 41% of parents were satisfied with the availability of teachers to check in with their child 45% of parents were not satisfied.
  • Almost 3/10 parents (29%) said they were not very or not at all satisfied with the volume of work given to their child by their school in the most recent half term. More than half (55%) were very or quite satisfied.

Parents’ biggest concern about school closures (% of parents ranking it as their number one concern):

  • Impact on my child’s education – 35%
  • Impact on my child’s mental health – 30%
  • Risk of my child catching Covid-19 – 19%
  • My child not seeing school friends – 12%
  • My ability to juggle work and home schooling – 10%

Our response 

Commenting on the issue, Chief Executive of Parentkind, John Jolly, says:

It’s clear from our results that more work needs to be done by government and schools to reassure parents and carers that it is safe for children to return to school. A significant number remain undecided about returning their children to school next term, and the majority of parents and carers are wanting the right to make the decision themselves. The government needs to be understanding of parents’ legitimate concerns and talking about fining them is not helpful.

For that reason, we welcome the decision of the Welsh government to respect parents’ wishes in the next academic term and would urge the English government to do the same, allowing parents and carers to make the right decision for them and their families without fear of financial penalties until at least December 2020.”

Our methodology 

Our third coronavirus and school closures survey ran as a short online survey which was active between 5pm on 29th June and 9am on 13th July. 4,864 parents completed it. 3,629 respondents were based in England, 937 in Wales and 298 in Northern Ireland. Parents with more than one child were invited to answer some of the questions for a second child: 1,145 parents did so.

Download the results