Parentkind asks: what are parents’ worries about the impact of coronavirus?
When schools closed in Wales, England 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, especially to protect teaching staff who were already off sick in large numbers before the decision was taken to close school doors.
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, here is what parents told us:
On a scale of 1-10 (where 1 is not at all worried about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on their child's education, and 10 extremely worried) almost a quarter of parents (24%) selected 10/10. The average across all parents was 6.8/10. In Wales the average was (6.4/10).
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.
What else did our research show?
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 and further information at Parentkind.
Tracey Handley is the Head of Wales at Parentkind where she leads on the development of policy, campaigns and research.