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Parents concerned about blended learning approach on return to school

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Parents are worried about children returning to school on the basis of a blended learning approach,  where they would only be in the classroom on a part-time basis.

With continuing uncertainty about whether all pupils will be able to return to school together, teaching and learning could be a combination of school and home-based.

But a survey of almost 30,000 primary school parents highlights widespread concerns that children would not engage well if they were not in the classroom and that blended learning would amount to a loss in tuition.

The National Parents Council Primary (NPC) survey found 91pc of parents believe it important that their children return to school fully at the end of August/early September, with 8pc saying it was only slightly or not important.

More than four in five (83pc) of parents felt that it would be somewhat or extremely difficult for their child to settle into their new school if blended learning was in place, up to 84pc for parents of children with special needs.

Parents were also asked questions about blended learning and how they feel this might impact their child’s motivation regarding their learning at home.

Some 72pc felt that their children would be only slightly motivated or not at all motivated to learn at home, with 28pc reporting that their children would be very motivated or motivated to learn at home.

“This raises concerns whether there would be blended learning actually taking place or in effect a shortened school week,” said NPC CEO Aine Lynch.

Ms Lynch outlined the findings while addressing the Oireachtas Covid-19 committee which is looking at the issue of school re-opening.

She told the committee that children and parents need certainty about the structure of the school day and school week.

Ms Lynch said parents had raised concerns with NPC regarding the possibilities of shorter days/weeks and blended learning.

Apart from the issue of the motivation of pupils to engage with schoolwork at home part-time, Ms Lynch said a return to school on the basis of blended learning would be a “logistical minefield”.

She said it would, in some cases, make it impossible for some children to return to school however much the child and parents wanted this to happen.

There would be issues for parents where they had more than one child in different class levels or different schools while an uncertain school timetable would be difficult for working parents.

Ms Lynch said there were also concerns regarding transition from primary to post-primary if a child moved from home schooling in their primary school to a blended learning model in their new secondary school.

Parents were also asked about their child’s anxiety levels regarding their return to school, the majority (62 per cent) rated their child’s anxiety below 5 (with 10 being the most anxious).

However, Ms Lynch said it was worrying that 13pc (3,528 responses), rated their child’s anxiety at eight or above.

More than one in 10 (11pc) parents said their child would need additional support from outside of the family to help with their anxiety on their return to school. While the majority of those felt that the teacher could offer that support, almost half (45pc) felt their child would need professional therapeutic supports to help them cope with their anxiety.

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