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Family friction rises as work and home-schooling clash

100,000 people take part in Covid-19 survey


Sign of the times: A social distancing notice on a cycle track in Baldoyle, Dublin 13. Photo: Gareth Chaney

Sign of the times: A social distancing notice on a cycle track in Baldoyle, Dublin 13. Photo: Gareth Chaney

Sign of the times: A social distancing notice on a cycle track in Baldoyle, Dublin 13. Photo: Gareth Chaney

In the first snapshot of the effects of Covid-19 on the population, a fifth of parents are now home-schooling their children with many saying they are struggling to balance this with their own work.

A new survey, carried out by research teams at DCU and NUI Galway, gathered data from 100,000 respondents.

Of those, 9,000 said they had children in pre-school and 26,000 were parents to national school children.

The vast majority reported favourably about home-schooling (77pc).

However, 3pc did not have access to computers and/or a reliable internet connection, making home-schooling problematic.

However, Dr Akke Vellinga, epidemiologist and senior lecturer at NUI Galway, said: "A lot of parents said we had only scratched the surface.

"A lot of parents are saying they're struggling with the balance of work and children. They still have to work from home and have children at home too, they have to suddenly home-school and entertain them, while working.

"If both parents are working from home and a child or children are at home full-time, that's causing huge issues.

"We have emails from parents saying they're frustrated, especially those parents who are both working from home.

"There's pressure that doesn't ease off from work just because parents are working from home. That pressure is still there and it causes friction between parents with regards to who will do what, at what time."

Almost 10pc of respondents have a child aged 15 or under in secondary school. Those parents reported schools are sending work home (30pc), setting regular home-work and providing additional online support (67pc).

In the case of those aged between 15 to 17, the survey showed that in 67pc of cases schools were setting homework and providing extra support online.

Meanwhile, those respondents whose children are being cared for by childminders are likely to be essential workers.

Almost 90pc of pre-school children are at home with parents but 5pc are still with childminders and up to 3pc are with grandparents - a figure which surprised the team given Government directions on cocooning for the over-70s.

But Dr Vellinga said grandparents can be "in the late 40s and 50s".

"We did pick up in emails a lot of people have essential jobs and that has huge challenges in terms of childcare," Dr Vellinga said.

Some 6,000 of the respondents reported having flu-like symptoms in recent days, a sign that Ireland could be starting to build up herd immunity, she added.

Of those who had flu-like symptoms, 52pc felt they were the indicators of coronavirus and 53pc contacted their GP, of whom 36pc were referred for testing. Of those who received test results, 10pc were positive and 18pc were negative.

The most common symptoms were tiredness/exhaustion (64pc), sore throat (54pc), dry, throaty cough (44pc) runny nose (42pc) and/or muscle pain (38pc).

Dr Vellinga said: "If we know 80pc of the population will pick up the virus and a large number will have mild to moderate symptoms, the fact we have this data for this number showing symptoms is a good sign.

"This means they didn't need to go to hospital, they just had flu-like symptoms and that we are seeing a little herd immunity building in the population."

Dr Vellinga supports the introduction of antibody testing to help investigate how much of the population has already overcome the virus, as this could be an indicator of how parts of society could soon be working again.

Around 10pc who responded to the survey were living alone. A third of these had not talked to anyone the day before.

Dr Vellinga said: "I thought that was a figure that brought this crisis home to me. People are going through this in very different ways.

"A large group of people are alone and not talking to anyone at all."

The online survey will be repeated again on April 22.

Irish Independent