Some parents are calling for their children to redo the school year – or at least return to the class they were in before the schools closed as a result of coronavirus.
A parents’ organisation has published one of the first indications of how Scottish families are coping with the school closures that came into force on 20 March.
There are also calls put off any big changes, such as the move to secondary school, until students have had a period of calm back in their old school with their old classroom teacher.
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Other parents talked about the struggle to motivate teenagers to keep learning when they have had exams cancelled – and pointed to the difficult year that some senior pupils have had. Other students have also had to contend with school fires this year.
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Many more parents highlighted the impossibility of juggling work and home learning.
The survey – which is still running – is being carried out by parents’ organisation Connect, with the initial findings published yesterday, based on the responses gathered during the first week of April, from parents and carers in 21 of Scotland's 32 local authorities.
Common concerns among parents included worries about how much education children were missing out on; children spending too much time in front of screens; the impact of the lockdown on mental health; and the dearth of opportunities to socialise, especially for only children.
The extra challenge of supporting a child with additional support needs was also frequently raised.
One parent said: “My child receives tuition from a specialist ASL [additional support for learning] tutor. Whilst I am willing and keen to provide tuition for my child, the tuition provided by his ASL teacher is essential, plus I’m working full-time, so doing classwork with an already anxious child is hard.”
Many parents praised schools. “School has a great set-up and my daughter now works independently," said one respondent, while another stated: “I'm really impressed with the resources that have been put in place and how hard my son's teachers are working to support them."
But parents criticised schools, with one parent bemoaning a "lack of clear guidance, no remote teaching at all".
A few parents made pleas for activities that do not involve their children being in front of screens. Others said they did not lack information and advice, but they were being inundated with it.
One parent said: “We have felt overwhelmed by the volume of messages on different platforms. School is currently using Glow, Twitter, Facebook, Showbie, Microsoft Teams, Diagnostic Questions, as well as booklets on the website for certain subjects. It has been hard to navigate it all. It would be helpful if there was more consistency in what is used to give work.”
Another commented: “I need less [information and advice]! Too much information from too many places makes me feel like I am failing.”
The parents also had a lot of questions, including these:
- Will the SQA exams next year also be cancelled because pupils will not have had the chance to complete their courses?
- Will consideration be given to going back to school at the beginning of July to allow schools and pupils to catch up on the learning they have already missed?
- Will my child move on to P2 in August or redo P1?
- How do I motivate my S5 son?
- How will my child be affected when this is all over?
The survey asked parents if they had the information and advice they needed, and 54 per cent said they did; 12 per cent said they did not; and 34 per cent said it was too early to say.
It also asked where they were getting their information and advice to support their children. Most were getting it from their child’s school (66 per cent), finding it themselves on websites (52 per cent), on Facebook (53 per cent), or from their child’s teacher or early years practitioner (50 per cent).
Over half of respondents (58 per cent) agreed with the statement “I am trying my best to help with school work but I am not a teacher”. Some 13 per cent agreed with the statement “I don't know where to begin”.
The information the largest proportion of parents said they would welcome was specific subject advice (26 per cent), tips for how to organise the day (23 per cent), ways of keeping my child busy (22 per cent) and links to useful websites my children or I can look at (21 per cent).
In her daily briefing yesterday, first minister Nicola Sturgeon said a special thank-you to parents who were “juggling looking after children with work and other caring responsibilities”. She also thanked children and young people for “putting up with this disruption so well”.