Covid: Parents worry about lost learning as schools reopen
By Jeanette Long
image copyrightPress Association
The majority of parents in England will be happy to send their children back to school, but two-thirds are concerned about the amount of learning lost.
A survey by the Institute for Fiscal Studies reveals some parents think that their child will never catch-up.
It shows parents want policies to promote children's wellbeing as well as their academic learning.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has promised no child's prospects should be "blighted by the pandemic."
As schools in England prepare to reopen to all pupils on Monday for the first time since early January, 90% of parents say they would send their children back, even if it was not compulsory.
Parents are much more confident about children going back to school this time than they were last summer, says the financial think thank, when only two thirds of parents supported the idea of going back into the classroom.
Among parents who are still reluctant, health concerns about the pandemic continue to be the most important reason - with nearly half of these parents saying the Covid-19 case rate is the key factor.
Nearly 6,000 parents across England were asked their views in the last week of February, as the full reopening of schools was approaching.
The youngest pupils have already returned to school in Scotland and Wales.
Some primary school pupils in Northern Ireland also return to school on Monday.
The survey provides evidence on how parents view the the impact of so much lost time in school.
Overall, 65% of primary school parents and 68% of those with secondary school children are concerned that their child has lost out on learning.
Among these worried secondary school parents, 9% believe their child's education will never be able to fully recover from the adverse effects the pandemic.
The Department for Education recently announced a further £700m package to help pupils catch-up on lost learning, including tutoring and summer schools.
Support for catch-up plans is very high among parents, the IFS survey suggests, with over 90% in favour, with tutoring the most popular policy.
There is much less support among parents for a longer school day, an extended term or repeating school years, with disadvantaged families less likely to be keen.
A large majority of parents (83%) are also in favour of policies to promote children's wellbeing. Most believed that in-class activities - such as arts, creative writing or spending time outdoors - would make the biggest difference.
Around a quarter of parents prioritised greater access to mental health services.
Christine Farquharson, IFS senior research economist, said: "While close to half of those concerned think that the damage will be relatively short-lived, one in 10 secondary school parents think their child will never catch up.
"While the tutoring programmes that the government has emphasised are hugely popular with parents, it is hard to believe that the £1.7bn currently allocated to the recovery is anywhere near enough to meet the scale of this challenge."
A DfE spokeswoman said: "We know the pandemic has had a significant impact on children and young people, which is why it's been our priority to get pupils back to face-to-face education.
"Our new Mental Health in Education Action Group will look at how we best support children and young people's mental wellbeing as they return to education settings, in addition to the mental health training we have funded for teachers to help them respond to emotional and mental health pressures."
The major spending package is expected to be given final approval in the House next week.