Written evidence submitted by Parentkind
School closures and coronavirus:
Parentkind follow-up parent survey
Written evidence submitted to the Education Select Committee
- Parentkind is a national charity based in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. We enable and champion all the ways parents can participate in their child’s school life and education. We are also the largest membership body for Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) - our 13,500 members are represented in around 50% of schools nationwide. We are submitting to the inquiry to ensure that parent voice and parental concerns are heard, as parents are the major education stakeholder.
- Our submission addresses in particular the following term of reference:
- Support for pupils and families during closures, including: The consistency of messaging from schools and further and higher education providers on remote learning; Children’s and young people’s mental health and safety outside of the structure and oversight of in-person education.
Parentkind’s second coronavirus parent survey
- We previously submitted evidence to the Education Committee’s inquiry into the impact of COVID-19 on education and children’s services on 6th April 2020, following an initial survey of parents taken when it was announced that schools would be closing.
- We followed up with a second survey a few weeks later to learn how parents were adjusting to life under lockdown, and for most, having the additional responsibility of children learning at home. It was widely shared by many stakeholders, parent groups and individuals in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – the three regions in which we operate – including by the Department for Education in England. This resulted in over quarter of a million responses.
- Methodology: A short online survey, promoted to parents of school-aged children via social media, which was active between 5pm on 23rd April and 9am on 4th May. 257,392 parents, representing 427,500 pupils, completed the survey. 247,022 respondents were based in England, 8,575 in Wales and 1,795 in Northern Ireland. 75% of respondents from England were parents of primary school pupils, and 25% were parents of secondary school pupils. Percentages cited below may not add up to 100% due to rounding and unspecified ‘don’t know’ or ‘other’ categories.
- Mental health a big factor in parents' concerns. We asked, "What are your biggest concerns as a parent about the coronavirus pandemic?" and invited respondents to select up to three from a list of seventeen options. The top five areas for parental concern were:
- My child not seeing their friends and socialising (48%)
- My child missing out on learning from teachers (38%)
- One or more of my family members catching Covid-19 (35%)
- My child’s mental health (35%)
- My ability to juggle work and support my child’s learning (31%)
- As seen above, ‘My child’s mental health’ was selected as a top three concern by over a third of respondents. This was an especially large concern for parents of children attending secondary school (39%, versus 33% at primary level). This is additionally worrying because we also asked, “What support/resources have you/your child received from the school?” 40% of parents indicated that they had received ‘activities that support my child's well-being’. Although schools are aware that the wellbeing of young people may be an issue for many families as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, more consideration must be given by policymakers to meeting these needs.
- Asking, “How well are you coping with your child being off school?”, 25% said 'very well' and 43% 'quite well'. But this left almost a quarter (24%) saying 'so-so', 7% 'not very well' and 1% 'not at all well'. This means that around a third of parents say they are not coping well, and there is inevitably a knock-on effect on family life and the well-being and education of children as a consequence.
- More than a quarter of parents (26%) indicated that they are more worried now about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on their child's education than they were at the start of school closures. 40% maintained the same level of worry, and 31% indicated that they were less worried now. Although some say that they are less anxious, many parents remain concerned about the overall impact on their child’s learning. Children adjusting to returning to school once they reopen to more pupils in a phased manner, with social distancing and other safety measures in place, perhaps using different modes of transport to travel there and back than they are used to, will be additional challenges for many young people. Parents have legitimate concerns about this. Young people may also be fearful about their parents' and grandparents' wellbeing, as well as about their futures, whether that’s exam arrangements and the implications for entering the workforce, undertaking an apprenticeship, or enrolling at college or university. We would suggest that scrutiny of the impact of all of these considerations on the mental health and wellbeing of young people and their families would be of enormous importance.
- Parents of Y6 pupils worry about their child missing out on transition activities. 62% of parents with a Y6 child in England cited ‘My child missing out on transition activities to their new school’ in their top 3 biggest concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
- A third of parents lack confidence in supporting their child's home learning. Although 66% said they felt ‘very’ or ‘quite confident’, 33% felt ‘not very’ (25.5%) or ‘not at all confident’ (7.6%) in supporting their child's home learning. Special consideration should be given to those parents who lack confidence to ensure that their children are given extra support, and this will require additional availability of resources, as well as increased communication between home and school to address specific areas of concerns.
- Overall, parents are satisfied with the home learning support and home-school communications given by their child's school. 43% said they were 'very satisfied' (although this represented 45% at primary level and 38% at secondary level) with the home-learning support given by their child’s school and 39% 'quite satisfied', totalling 82% of parents in England registering satisfaction. We are not surprised by this figure, as we know that school leaders have taken very seriously the need for home learning support during this crisis. Nevertheless, 12% said that they were 'not very satisfied', and 4% 'not at all satisfied’, which means 16% of parents feel more home learning support could have been given by their child's school. Additionally, parents are generally happy with how well their child's school has communicated with them during the school closures. 45% of parents in England chose 'very well' (out of which it averaged 46% of parents of children at primary, and 39% at secondary) and 40% 'quite well', amounting to 85% of parents happy with home-school communications during closures. However, 11% chose 'not very well' (which was 13.5% for secondary parents) and 3% 'not at all well', amounting to more than one in ten parents who register a level of dissatisfaction with how well their child's school has communicated with them during this period. 77% indicated that their child's school had communicated their expectations of them whilst schools are closed, but 18% said that they had not received this clarity. 5% did not know. When asking what support/resources they/their child had received from the school, 62% had received worksheets to print out at home, 46% direct communication between their child and teachers, 45% feedback from teachers on work completed, and 42% reassurances about learning expectations during school closures.
- External resources. Out of the respondents from England, 7% indicated that they had used the Department for Education website in seeking support/resources to help whilst schools are closed. The most popular option, selected by 60%, was BBC Bitesize. This suggests that although parents appreciate and are using external resources, the government's resources could be more accessible to a parent audience. In contrast, 43% of parents in Wales had looked at the government's Education Wales Hwb website.
- Additional resources. We asked parents, "What support/resources would you/your child find helpful from your child's school?" Respondents could select all that applied. The top answers were:
- Live online classes (45%)
- Direct communication between your child and their teachers (44%)
- Video clips to explain subject matter (44%)
- Feedback from teachers on work completed (41%)
- Reassurances about learning expectations during school closures (40%)
- Conclusion. Many of these answers demonstrate that parents seek clarity, both in terms of the expectations placed upon them when their children are learning from home, as well as how they can best support their child, and what arrangements will they need to account for as schools reopen to more pupils. Children will be returning to a very different school environment where they will not be able to interact with their peers in the way they are accustomed to. Consideration for how schools and parents can support the mental health and wellbeing of children should be a priority for policymakers. Parentkind is willing to share more of our survey findings with the Education Committee should it be useful. We published a news article and infographic to our website. We are planning on a further survey to track parental responses to the pandemic and schooling issues over time.