Feedback from parents during lockdown
The NPFS has been working hard to keep parents and carers informed throughout the lockdown period, via our website, newsletters and social media, and we have been gathering parents’ views and concerns on an ongoing basis. We are very grateful for the time parents have taken to communicate with us, and the valuable suggestions they have made for improving the support for our children during this challenging time.
The engagement from parents has been impressive; the questions we raised on Twitter posts alone reached thousands (see table below), and we received valuable feedback in response to these posts. We are also grateful for the many parents who contacted us through private messaging and emails, providing detailed personal experiences. Our local authority reps have also heard from many parents through their networks across Scotland.
Every family is experiencing lockdown differently, and we do not claim to represent ALL parents, but there are some common concerns and suggestions in the feedback we have received. This is an overview of the feedback received in April and May.
Every comment is valuable but it is difficult to represent hundreds of viewpoints in one overview. If you have contacted us, and your comment is not specifically represented here, please be assured that it has been captured within our more detailed store of parent feedback.
We are continuing to gather feedback on an ongoing basis, so please email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. We are also planning to launch a survey for parents and carers in June. This will capture the views of parents on the recent announcements to re-open schools on the 11th August and the proposed ‘blended’ approach to school/home learning.
Life in lockdown
Mental health and wellbeing
The main concern voiced by parents has been the impact lockdown and school closures is having on children and young people, and the importance of looking after their mental health and wellbeing.
- Many parents are worried about their child’s isolation from friends and extended family, and some have said that their child has become more withdrawn
- Many parents are worried about the effect on their child’s social skills, especially those with younger children, or with children who find social interaction particularly challenging
- Some parents of children with an additional support need (ASN) have said their child has struggled to cope with the change of routine, although other parents have said they have noticed that their child is much calmer staying at home.
- Several parents raised concerns about how some of their child’s classmates were coping. This was largely in respect of EAL (English as an additional language) families, but we received a similar comment from a parent whose child uses Makaton.
- There are many parents struggling to help motivate their children and maintain a positive frame of mind. This has been particularly difficult for parents of teenagers, who have been dealing with cancelled exams
- Many parents of children in transition years say their children are particularly anxious and upset. Parents are finding it difficult to:
- Explain the situation to younger children, about whether they are starting primary 1 and what they should expect
- Support primary 7 children that are sad about cancelled end of year celebrations, and anxious due to missing out on the transition process for starting secondary school
- Reassure young people coping with the impact of cancelled exams and worried about moving on to work, apprenticeships, college or university.
“Home schooling I’m not afraid of. But him being socially isolated I am.”
“The most important thing you can do I believe is ensure they are safe and secure and look after their mental health at this strange time.”
Challenges for parents and families
Many parents are struggling to help support their children’s learning for a variety of reasons, including:
- Lack of communication, resources and support from their schools
- Inability to access specialist learning support, such as speech therapists
- Having to juggle working from home with looking after their children
- Difficulties in meeting the needs of several children
- Lack of respite care for children with additional support needs and/or complex needs
- Pressures of caring for family members that are self-isolating or shielding
- Financial pressures due to a variety of factors, including:
- additional costs incurred from staying at home, such as increases to utility bills, food, learning resources
- reduced income due to being furloughed or loss of income due to ‘falling through the cracks’ in the government support e.g. the self employed
- Limited access to online devices, printers and broadband
- Their child’s learning stage being beyond their knowledge and capability. Many parents raised issues around the difficulties in supporting senior phase subjects, including a parent finding it, understandably, impossible to support children studying higher chemistry and advanced higher maths
“…parents working from home do need childcare provision to begin as soon as it’s possible. It’s so intolerable at times – torn between leaving your kids to it to complete work or home schooling or seeing to pre-schoolers when you should be working.”
Aside from the emotional impact of cancelled exams, as mentioned previously, parents have concerns over results and whether this will be managed fairly.
- Many parents are worried that there could be a lack of consistency over grade recommendations. SQA guidelines stated that further work was unnecessary but some schools set additional assignments to submit as evidence, whereas others have not.
- Several parents said they are not clear about the appeals process and would like more detailed information.
- Parents with children on the verge of leaving school for further education and/or work are particularly concerned that this years’ results will be treated differently by employers, in terms of credibility.
“What about schools already doing 2 year courses. There are children in 4th year just now who will sit no exam April 2020 as their school does not present for Nat 5 and instead do 2 year Highers. What is being done to protect them? They sit their exams April 2021!!!!!”
“What about young people at colleges doing HNCs? There has been little talk about these young people, who may also be depending on results for university entrance, and no clear guidance yet about the way forward.”
The cancellation of exams was also raised as an issue for progression, alongside the overall impact of the school closures. Parents are worried about the lack of, or reduced, progress in learning compared with being in school.
- As there was no studying for final exams, parents are concerned that this will impact knowledge levels for progression e.g. moving from National 5 to Highers.
- Some children will have progressed less than others for various reasons: lack of face to face contact with teachers, inconsistencies in learning support and resources from schools and variations in the ability to work effectively from home. Although this is concerning for their own progression, some parents are concerned that it will also impact classmates if they have to catch up when returning to school.
- Although work can continue for many subjects, it is difficult or impossible to continue with subjects such as music, woodwork, metalwork, or some of the experimental work in science.
- There are concerns over transitions and how these will be managed, especially for children moving from primary into secondary school. Many parents of children with Additional Support Needs (ASN) or complex needs are particularly anxious about the emotional impact of this.
“It’s going to be tough initially as so much course work [for Higher] is building on Nat 5. Exams force you to try and learn the coursework and without exams its really impacting on the knowledge level. There is going to be a gap in learning.”
“I know a lot of people are choosing to do very little, or nothing at all, and with little or no hand in dates there seems to be no checking up on progress. My concern is that the kids that are working will go back to school already behind with being at home and will then have to wait for lots of people in the class to catch up.”
Support from schools
In the early stages of lockdown, the messages and discussions we had with parents tended to focus on the difficulties facing everyone, including teachers and school staff.
- The closure of schools was unprecedented
- There was a limit to what some schools could prepare in the short time they had to plan before closing their doors
- Teachers have been unable to access resources and information held in school (e.g. SEEMiS for student information).
- Some teachers are more confident with technology than others so may struggle in managing online classes
- Teachers are also coping with working from home and looking after their own families
However, there is growing frustration among many parents at the inconsistency across schools and local authorities. Many parents are concerned that their child has had less support than others, and that this has had a damaging impact on their learning. Parents are increasingly telling us that all schools must work to put measures in place to adequately support any future learning at home.
“The school my nephew goes to is miles ahead of our one.”
“I can see what other schools are doing by looking on Facebook. Some of them have even been doing assemblies. Our school has hardly done anything.”
“…bombarding them with assignments and poor guidance and responses [do] not promote leaning. Expecting a 13 year old to manage their own timetable is overwhelming and not appropriate.”
Many schools have struggled to strike the right balance. Some parents have said their school is putting their children under too much pressure to complete too many assignments. Others have said their child has received little, or no, classwork or support, or that the work their child is submitting is not getting marked.
Some of the suggestions put forward by parents include:
- Improved remote learning, such as the use of Microsoft Teams or zoom
- A consistent, regular timetable of online classes and/or tutorials
- Regular assignments with deadlines for completion, especially for young people approaching exam years
- A national curriculum with web based teaching presentations and tutorials for year groups
- Opportunities to schedule one-to-one appointments with teachers to discuss problems
- Greater opportunities to actually see classmates and teachers during online classes, rather than switching off video cameras, although many acknowledge the security reasons for schools deciding not to do this.
“I know it’s tricky for some kids…but if there were virtual classes or stricter hand in dates were in place then it would be noticeable to school who needed extra help/support/equipment and they would be given this and kids that are just not engaging by choice can be prompted and reminded that it’s not the holidays yet!”
“I think virtual live classes would be the way forward – that way the teacher knows exactly who is not attending and working. Even if it was just the teaching part and they are given a certain amount of time to complete written tasks.”
There have also been parents praising their school, commenting that support has improved over time and/or saying they are satisfied with how well their child is working from home. Some of the methods parents found particularly helpful include:
- Clear instructions and timetables, with flexibility and understanding for what individual children can achieve
- Good communication with teachers, including telephone calls to discuss issues and scheduled appointments as a ‘parents’ night’
- Sensitive and pro-active problem solving for those having difficulty accessing work online, such as distributing paper resources directly into homes or local supermarkets
- Sensitivity of teachers using shared platforms so that children don’t see their classmates’ work
“My kids are being educated effectively by their current teachers through google classroom and other media and have the same work load they had before lockdown. Their teachers have coped with this very well and were already using the learning platforms. Has it had issues, yes but in the main it has been very effective.”
“The Parent Council of xxxx have been blown away with what our school has created for all our 500+ kids. Continuous daily support via Teams. Mental & emotional welfare no1 priority. Can’t thank them enough!”
“I can see a massive shift in xxxx’s attitude since the school have started them on Higher work. Getting the coursework through weekly on teams is focusing her and there is some motivation there. She has something structured and knows what to aim for. That’s a world away from where we have been.”
When to re-open schools
Although the views of parents differed over if/when schools should re-open, the main reason behind these views was shared: to do what’s best for their child’s health and wellbeing.
We conducted a poll over Twitter on the 15th May asking, if you had the choice, when would you like your child to return to school? We gave the options of before or after the summer holidays. Of the 214 people responding:
- 79% would prefer to return after the holidays
- 17% would prefer before the holidays, and
- 4% said they did not know.
In response to this and other posts, we received additional comments and thoughts on this question:
- Many parents stated that the return to school should be delayed ‘until safe to do so’ although opinions differed as to what ‘safe’ would mean
- Some parents would like schools to re-open as soon as possible, or at least in June. This was due to a variety of concerns including:
- the effects of isolation on their child’s mental health
- the lack of educational progression (especially for those in exam years)
- the severe financial and emotional stresses facing many families as they try to support their children whilst struggling to maintain incomes and businesses.
- A few parents also contacted us to say they did not think schools should have been closed at all, as they thought the risk of attending school was so low that it did not justify keeping their children at home.
- Several parents said that they would like to have a choice on whether they send their child to school, or not. This was largely due to concerns over the level of risk, especially if a member of the family had underlying health issues.
- Some parents said they would prefer to delay the return to school until it can be managed as a ‘normal’ school day. One of the main reasons for this was due to concerns over the emotional impact of physical distancing for younger children.
- Some parents said they would prefer to wait until it ‘is 100% risk free’ before sending their child.
- Some parents also suggested that particular groups of children should be prioritised, for various reasons, such as those in the senior phase (exam years) and children that are struggling to progress.
“After summer seems more realistic. Each individual school would need to have time to put a secure plan in place to prove to their students/staff that they will be safe on their return…”
“August is a long way, away. My teen and tween are struggling and we have lots of space/tech and both work part time so goodness knows how hard it must be for those without!”
“Get the children back who are not engaging at home, they should not miss out on their education due to whatever circumstances is stopping them do school work.”
“Normality or nothing at all. It’s not fair to expect kids to not be able to play with their friends after all this time. To make them social distance at break times etc is more abnormal than having them stay at home.”
“…where either a parent or a child has existing conditions for whom catching covid-19 could be dangerous – need to be allowed to keep their children at home and continue online tuition.”
“Would like to see a stepped approach starting with the older kids then the younger kids and half days for the p1 & 2 kids to ease them in to a routine.”
“Not before it’s safe; phased / part-time; if part-time regular i.e. set days or times not 1 week at school then 1 week at home”
The ‘new normal’ for schools
Many parents have commented on the measures they would like to see in place for schools re-opening.
- Prioritising mental health and wellbeing through giving time to re-establish relationships and support for getting back into learning.
“A softer approach, so much more work done on emotions, teachers playing with the kids then gradually the curriculum being introduced. Children have been through so much”
“My wee boys in primary one, it’s a confusing time for the young kids, I’d like them to have the same teacher again.”
“[An] initial focus on reconnecting and establishing relationships with play based learning for primary school; awareness of trauma effects on learning.”
- Making sure that there is a consistent level of support from every school, across all local authorities
- Giving consideration to the fact that some children will have progressed more than others, and dealing with this sensitively so children and young people were not made to feel guilty about it.
- Some parents suggested offering additional support over the summer for those particularly struggling
- Encouraging outdoor learning where possible, with training/guidance for teachers
“At this point you can just about accept the inconsistency because it was not planned for, but when we go back to school there needs to be training for teachers to be digitally literate so there are no inconsistencies or teaching gaps. Worksheets and written work should be kept for the home learning part, so the time spent in school has real interaction with the teacher and the class.”
“If the ‘new normal’ is to be different, please can it be clear and consistent – routine needs to be re-established. And as soon as safe to do so. Educational disruption can have life-long impact. Our kids need to be supported to close the gaps.”
“A plan for supporting kids back into the curriculum. A lot will have fallen behind their classmates and this could cause real confidence issues.”
“I also believe that there is so much to be gained from outdoor learning. Would love more time of outdoor learning time incorporated.”
Hygiene & safety
- Improved hygiene through regular, deep cleaning of schools and a frequent hand washing regime
- Appropriate ventilation throughout schools by keeping windows open instead of any air conditioning or fans that circulate air
- Consideration of other potential safety measures, such masks and test and trace
“Will the schools be deep cleaned before any sort of return of staff & pupils? Normal council cleaners have no PPE, nor adequate cleaning products to perform a proper deep clean.”
“Small class sizes – Maximum 10 per room. Good infection control procedures. Test trace isolate. Protect teachers. Increase outdoor learning. Outdoor handwashing facilities.”
- Physical distancing measures appropriate for when in classrooms, corridors and lunch halls. This was a key concern for many parents and several stated that it was not possible or damaging to the emotional wellbeing of their children. There were particular concerns over playtimes and how first aid would be managed.
“I have been working in a hub and socially distancing with younger primary/ nursery aged children has been impossible.”
“The most natural thing for children is play so the children must be able to play together make bonds, be creative. They can’t be kept apart. My 7 year old misses her friends desperately.”
“Schools to have capacity to ensure children can be kept safe. Plans to be in place to also minimise emotional impact, for example should younger children especially only be in half days, to prevent break times in which they would be told they can’t play with their friends.”
Travelling to school
- Recognising that any staggered attendance should consider households with more than one child i.e. siblings should be able to attend together to limit journeys
- Strategies for avoiding crowding in the school environment at pick-up and drop off times, such as ‘school streets’ that limit parking close to the school
- Consideration of transport to school, such as the availability and safety of local buses in terms of physical distancing and ventilation
“…if we temporarily remove some car parking where appropriate then this will mean parents and pupils can use pavement and road to social distance.”
- Recognising the needs of transitions (e.g. into Primary 1 and from P7 to S1). Some parents suggested prioritising these students whereas several other parents have suggested delaying transitions for a period of time.
“Current P7 pupils could be first into the high school with primary teachers there to help their transition.”
Additional Support Needs (ASN)
Many parents voiced their concern that any plans to return to school need careful consideration of the impact on children with additional support needs and complex needs. This included:
- Sensitivity around supporting social skills and rebuilding relationships
- The impact of changing routines
- Difficulties of managing a return to school, such as concerns over personal care and the stress involved in implementing physical distancing etc
- Concerns over transport to school, such as taxis
- Worries over transitions, especially from Primary 7 to S1
“…worried about my son who has autism. Transition for p7 to s1 this had such a bad effect on him not being at school in a routine.”
“My child is in the ASN I have huge anxiety as she has no concept of social distancing and needs help with all her personal care.”
“…you would presume there would be some plan on those children with ASN… they are highly vulnerable… Anyone thought about how they will manage a totally different school environment, PPE, sensory issues surrounding noise/masses of folk again etc. Anxiety that will have been through the roof already more staff are going to be needed, mental health support will be required on a large scale…”
“As mum of ASN kiddo, hope this is chance research, learn / build better system 4 all…”
- Recognition that plans need to take working parents into account, and ideally with recommendations from Scottish Government that employers should be flexible to accommodate families
“We want a system that’s safe for teachers and support staff as well as the kids. Routine and consistency are important. A lot of parents will be working around when the kids are in school and might struggle to chop and change.”
“Probably needs to be part time for social distancing but also needs to be planned around when most people return to work. Can’t have industry reopening with no plan for kids.”
This is an overview of some of the comments received from parents in April and May 2020, but is not exhaustive record of the extensive feedback we’ve received. The examples of direct quotes come from social media posts, as they are already in the public domain, and direct messages and emails where parents have given approval for their comments to be used. All other comments made via email remain confidential unless we are advised otherwise.
As other organisations have also captured parent views over this time period, we have provided links to some of these:
|There are lots of decisions to be made about #schoolsreopening, and it is important that parents have the opportunity to have their views heard. We want to know, if you had the choice, when would you like your child to return to school?||343||38||6,481|
|What would you want to be put in place – so that you would feel confident sending your child back to school?||516||26||9,569|
|What would you like to see happen first?||1,171||78||21,973|
|What would make you feel more comfortable about sending your children back to school?||1,033||68||21,292|
|What would you like the return to school to look like?||2,251||119||3,649|
|What are your top priorities to be considered for when children return to school?||1,798||88||33,565|
* Number of times a tweet appears on someone’s twitter timeline or in search results.