Grandparents will be interviewed in a six-year project investigating the lives of Irish primary pupils.
Their growing role in the lives and education of children is being recognised in the study by University College Dublin’s School of Education, which will work with around 4,300 children.
Pupils will be tracked in two groups, one of which will be in preschool when the study begins in early 2019, and the other in second class.
The project, funded by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), is aimed at giving new insights into the education and life journeys of children as the two cohorts progress to the end of second class of primary and first year at second level.
Many longitudinal studies with Irish children have been carried out in recent years, but this will be the first to focus solely on the primary school experiences of pupils, whose voices will be central to the project.
The inclusion of three-generational aspects to education research is a relatively new one internationally, but one in which the Children’s School Lives principal investigator, Professor Dympna Devine, has experience. The head of UCD’s School of Education is leading a project to evaluate the impact of an education intervention programme run by Concern Worldwide in Sierra Leone.
Prof Devine said grandparents recruited for the Irish study will be asked about their experiences and views of education. “We will be linking that to the context and understanding of education within the family and how that is transmitted from one generation to another,” she said.
“We’re documenting the role grandparents have in children’s everyday lives, which they are increasingly drawn into. They may be quite involved in their grandchildren’s school life and helping with homework.”
Prof Devine and Assistant Professor Jennifer Symonds are leading the team at UCD on the project. It will begin work next spring at 200 primary schools they hope to sign up shortly. While they will survey children, teachers, and parents at all schools, more in-depth interviews are planned with pupils, staff, and families at 14 schools.
As detailed by the Irish Examiner when the NCCA first sought research proposals in January, a wide mix of schools will be targeted in order to reflect the diversity of provision. This should see schools that include those with different religious and language ethos, single-sex and mixed gender, special schools, rural and urban schools, and those catering for pupils of different social backgrounds.
As well as helping to influence ongoing NCCA reviews of the primary curriculum, Prof Devine said it is hoped there will be direct benefits for schools.
“The findings should provide a rich evidence base for teachers and principals to help inform decisions they make about how they work with pupils,” she said.
The project co-investigators are Deirdre McGillicuddy and Seaneen Sloan, assistant professors at UCD's school of education.
The findings of a previous NCCA-funded longitudinal study of second-level students, carried out by the Economic and Social Research Institute, have had a major influence on junior cycle reforms and other ongoing developments in second-level education.