Parents want their children to return to school but they want them to do so safely.
Even those parents who worry about their child’s return, or would even prefer if their return was deferred, recognise the importance of school for their development.
Barnardos Back to School survey found children’s social and emotional development was a major concern for parents.
“Child has become very anxious, fidgety and emotional being out of our usual routine,” one parent wrote.
A mother of a boy with autism felt that being out of school had regressed his development.
“What about the children that have fallen behind even with support at home? My child struggled with reading and now he is going into second class in September and I do not know how he will catch up.
"It’s an extremely difficult time. These children who struggle will be a lost generation if something does not change,” she wrote.
One parent wrote about their teenage child “suffering hugely” with depression and suicidal thoughts while being in lockdown.
Many parents called for additional psychological supports to be put in place in schools to help children readjust to school life and being around their peers during Covid-19.
Most parents of school-going children (89% primary and 83% secondary) had faith in their child’s school to do everything possible to ensure their safety concerns remained.
However, parents of children with an underlying health condition, such as asthma, worried about how the return to a classroom environment would affect their health.
Parents also worried about their children infecting somebody else in the family with an underlying condition.
“My daughter is on cancer drugs for arthritis... her immune system is shocking. If you sneeze on her she can be sick (for) up to six weeks,” one parent wrote.
Another parent could not see how children would be safe at school.
“I am so worried. I’ve worked so hard keeping my daughter and two elderly parents safe; following all the guidelines only to have it all thrown out the window when 20-plus children return to classrooms in September.”
Most parents felt their child was looking forward to returning to school, although the proportion of primary school parents (69%) was higher than secondary school parents (54%).
A small but significant proportion of the parents (10% of primary school and 16% of secondary school) felt their child worried about going back to school because of Covid-19.
Many parents expressed frustration about the lack of information they received from the Department of Education and Skills.
Parents felt that information should have been provided and a plan put in place for children’s return to school sooner.
“I am worried about my child catching Covid-19. Because as usual, the Government give the school unclear guidelines with no support.”