Northern Ireland

One in three parents think children should return to classrooms as soon as lockdown ends

Closures have been extended until next month
Closures have been extended until next month Closures have been extended until next month

ONE in three parents think their children should return to classrooms as soon as the lockdown ends.

A quarter of those who took part in a survey said they would be happy for a restart only when scientists, the government and school leaders say it is safe.

The findings have been shared by charity Partentkind as ministers prepare to meet to discuss when schools can reopen.

The short online survey was promoted to parents of school-age children in Northern Ireland via social media.

Closures have been extended until next month with teachers predicting face-to-face learning will only resume after Easter.

The DUP has said it wants the executive to make reopening schools a priority.

The National Education Union has warned that a full return by all pupils may not be possible for some time.

Dr Tom Black from the British Medical Association suggested while primary schools could return on March 8, it would be a "big ask" to bring secondary students back as well.

However, the Public Health Agency said schools were not a major source of transmission.

Parentkind's survey focussed on parents' experience of supporting learning from home; the mental health of both parents and children and the return to school.

It sought views on the restart and also on who should be given priority if schools could not open to every pupil.

Among primary parents, 40 per cent favoured blended learning across all year groups - with alternate weeks in school for face-to-face learning, in between weeks of home-schooling.

About one in five said P1-3 should return first while roughly the same proportion said priority should be given to P6/7.

Blended learning was again the preferred option of secondary parents (49.4 per cent) while about one quarter said those in exam years should be first to return.

"The sheer volume of parents responding to this survey on the full reopening of schools indicates that this is an important issue," said Jayne Thompson from Parentkind.

"The option preferred by the most parents was that they wanted their child back in the classroom, but parents are aware of the continuing threat of the virus by calling for a blended learning approach in the event of partial reopening.

"Understanding parents' circumstances is important: those with a child with SEN are less inclined to favour an immediate return, preferring to wait for a scientific consensus on safety, and their voices too must be heard."