‘My child hasn’t spoken to a teacher for 12 weeks’ - parents on homeschooling experiences
PUBLISHED: 11:00 20 June 2020
Getty Images/iStockphoto/Fabio Principe
Almost three quarters of Norfolk parents believe the government has handled the closure of schools badly during the coronavirus crisis, a survey has found.
The EDP and Norwich Evening News asked parents about their experiences of homeschooling during almost 13 weeks of schools being closed to most children.
The government has announced a £1bn fund to help children catch up on what they have missed while schools have been closed.
MORE: Mixed reaction as primary schools not required to bring back all pupils
Primary and secondary schools will be given £650m to spend on one-to-one or group tuition for any pupils they think need it.
The most disadvantaged pupils will have access to tutors through a £350m programme over the year from September.
However with a plan for all primary pupils to return before the summer break scrapped and most secondary students not returning until September, 73pc of people who responded to our poll said they either ‘strongly disagreed’ or ‘disagreed’ that the government has handled the closure of schools well.
While eight in 10 parents said they felt children had been provided with enough school work whilst at home, more than one-third of parents (38pc) said they felt they were falling behind in their education.
Problems they had experienced with homeschooling ranged from juggling home working with schooling, having children of different ages, insufficient broadband speed, sharing laptops and computers, and keeping children’s attention focused.
MORE: Pupils will not visit their new secondary schools before September
Asked what they had found most difficult about homeschooling, one parent said: “Maintaining motivation, trying to work a full time job, mental health, trying to deal with changing and mixed messages from the government.
“Finding it hard to explain to children why we can go to the beach or theme park but they aren’t allowed to go to school.”
Another said setting up the initial routine had proved challenging, but added: “Once this was in place it has gone well and my son has made some very good progress in terms of learning new skills and concentrating on other areas that required improvement.”
Almost 80pc of parents thought children had been provided with enough work while off school, whilst more than three quarters said they either agreed or strongly agreed that their children’s school had been helpful with learning at home.
However almost a fifth (24pc) said they ‘disagreed’ or ‘strongly disagreed’ that their child’s school had been helpful.
One survey respondent said: “My child has not spoken to a teacher or any of their classmates the whole period. There was no online teaching provision provided - we were given a link to White Rose Maths but the worksheets were only free for four weeks after that we would have had to pay for membership because the school didn’t pay the modest amount for everyone to have access.”
Another said schools and the government should “think outside the box”. “Look at temporary outdoor classrooms, extending school day. Would be happy if our son could attend on a part time basis rather than not at all,” they added.
MORE: Schools turn to virtual reality and video tours for new pupils
Geoff Barton, former Bury St Edmunds headteacher and general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said there was no expectation on parents to homeschool and schools will continue to provide pupils with schemes of work that teachers can deliver remotely.
He said: “We are not surprised that many parents do not feel confident about teaching children at home as they have been put in a completely unexpected situation very suddenly.”
Sarah Shirras, headteacher of St William’s Primary School in Thorpe St Andrew and co-chair of Educate Norfolk, said: “By the time we get to September this will have been five months that some children will not have been attending school.
“We as a school, like others, have tried ways around that, for example our teachers go online every morning and give a welcome to the children so they see their teachers and get some sense of school normality.”