Children are spending less than two hours per day engaging in schoolwork since schools closed in March due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Research from Mary Immaculate College (MIC) in Limerick reveals many children are getting far less education than previously.
The Play and Learning in the Early Years (PLEY) Survey examines the impact of the Covid-19 restrictions on children. It included questions about schoolwork, screen time, the impact on their relationships, and their parents' attitudes towards play and learning.
The findings include:
- Social distancing: Parents say most children aged six and over understand the restrictions and social distancing. Three-quarters of 4-5 year olds do too.
- School: Most children miss school and parents agree it is important to continue work at home, but schoolwork is a source of conflict in half the families surveyed.
- Childcare: Two-thirds of children miss childcare.
- Social relationships: Most miss their families, friends, and playing with other children.
- Play: Children have seen an increase in screen time and outdoor play.
Other preliminary findings reveal that 82% of parents engaged in home school with children every day, and the amount of schooling was likely to increase with age.
Some 25% of 8-10 year olds spend at least two hours per day working on education, in comparison to just 12% of 6-7 year olds and 5% of 4-5 year olds.
Almost one-third of 8-10 year olds get under one hour of schooling per day, and more than three-quarters of 4-5 year olds are getting less than one hour.
Some 80% watch education TV, such as RTÉ's 'Home School Hub' or TG4's 'Cúla4 ar Scoil' at least once per week, while more than half are playing educational games on tablets, laptops, or phones.
Parents reported the lockdown as having varied impacts on children, with some reporting difficulties in getting children to switch off electronic devices and focus on school, and others reporting the disrupted routine as problematic in the household.
Others identified positive impacts, such as improvements in self-directed play and relationships between siblings.
Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at MIC and lead researcher on the PLEY Survey, Dr Suzanne Egan, said: "We can see from [parents'] descriptions of how their child’s play and learning have changed the mixed experiences of families in Ireland during the Covid-19 crisis.
"Some of the responses provided by parents suggest their children have adapted well to the change in circumstances and are thriving on more outdoor play and greater freedom from schedules.
"However, other parents have indicated their family is struggling with the changes and their child has been very negatively affected by the restrictions."
Dr Egan continued, "Some of these children are likely to need additional support in the future from their teachers, early years professionals or from health and social care professionals such as clinical and educational psychologists. Consideration will need to be given to measures to support children’s psychological health and wellbeing, as well as their physical health and safety."
More than 500 parents and children responded to the survey, which ran from May 23 to June 3.