Survey reveals problems with children’s learning during lockdown

A survey carried out by Trinity reveals how primary school parents feel about their children’s learning during the pandemic

The Covid-19 Parent Survey, carried out by Trinity, is the second in a series of three reports on the impact of Covid-19 school closures on education in Ireland. 

The survey found that 55% of parents felt as though their children were learning enough. However, more than a quarter of parents surveyed felt as though their children’s learning was not adequate during lockdown. The main reasons cited for inadequate learning were poor school communication and lack of parental time. 1 in 5 households reported having poor internet connection. 

One parent said: “If we had a better understanding of exactly what the curriculum contains we could move forward faster and stop him being bored going over subjects he already knows.” Another said: “I know they’re doing work, but I don’t know if they’re learning anything as I don’t have teaching skills.”

The results of the survey are consistent across all parents regardless of socio-economic status or school characteristics. However, parents of children with a disability and those with children in the senior primary classes were more likely to feel their child was not learning enough.

Adults in the household were identified as the key support in helping their child learn. The report finds that three quarters of parents were highly confident in supporting their child’s learning at home. School supports are a major factor in this confidence. Also, knowing what is important for the child to learn and having the time to help were reported as key factors in home support. One parent said: It is extremely stressful trying to ensure the children have access to digital devices and internet, do their schoolwork with them to a good quality and also have to work myself. I feel like I am not giving enough time to either my children or my own work.”

Parents were overall happy with the level of communication from schools with 79% saying it was ‘excellent’ or ‘good’. However, schools that communicated solely to provide work for students had significantly worse ratings. One-way communication, lack of feedback and limited interaction were some of the major problems that some parents faced, with one parent stating: “There is a complete lack of consistency with each school’s approach. Other primary schools in my area have continued to deliver lessons on Zoom – there has been no class since lockdown. My daughter has lost all interest; each week they send a long list of work but do not correct it.”

Some parents reported problems with learning as they do not have a printer. Materials would be sent to students at home which would be best utilized when printed. Laptops and desktops were available to some parents but most relied heavily on tablets for their child’s learning. 

A report entitled ‘Parent Perspectives on Teaching and Learning During School Closures: Lessons Learned from Irish Primary Schools’ has been written based on the survey findings to provide an analysis of home learning experiences during Covid-19. This report was compiled by Dr. Ann Devitt, Dr. Colm Ross, Dr. Aibhín Bray and Dr. Joanne Banks from the School of Education at Trinity. 

Dr. Ann Devitt, Director of Research at the School of Education and the Academic Director at The Learnovate Centre, said: “It is clear from the analysis presented that greater support is required for parents to support home learning, some of which can be addressed at system level, some at school and class level and some in the home.”

Dr. Devitt added: “We would advise parents to continue to extend all the family learning and family literacy practices they are already doing. The key message from this report is that family learning is effective. All of the everyday activities which develop literacy, numeracy and other learning are hugely valuable for children whether as part of household chores or leisure activity. “They provide a meaningful context in which children can learn and practice their developing skills. There are many useful resources available online to support and enhance these practices in simple ways.”

The anonymous survey was carried out between May 27 and June 15 and 797 parents of children in primary school responded.

Cian Lynch

Cian Lynch is the current SciTech Editor of Trinity News.