Majority of children worried about virus ahead of school return 

Covid-19 is a worry for three out of five children and young people when they think about going back to school, according to a new report by Barnardos.
Majority of children worried about virus ahead of school return 

A new study from Barnardos says that children and young people wanted to see more information from the Government about their return to school. Picture: File picture

Covid-19 is a worry for three out of five children and young people when they think about going back to school, according to a new report by Barnardos.

The charity's Back to School Survey shows 66% of secondary school students and 55% of primary school pupils are worried about the virus.

They are also concerned about the logistics of social distancing and maintaining hygiene standards in school.

“I am excited to see my friends, but I live with my nana and I am worried about getting the virus and giving it to her,” one child stated.

“The news said we might have to stick with three people; this makes me sad and makes me feel really worried as I have girls in my class that bully me.” 

Children and young people wanted to see more information from the Government about their return to school, the study said.

“I’m absolutely scared. Going into 6th year during a pandemic like this is the most stressful thing a child can go through,” another child wrote, adding they were worried about whether they would be in class full-time or part-time.

The survey was completed online by over 1,765 parents with school-aged children earlier this month. There were a further 255 respondents to the charity’s Children and Young People’s Survey.

Barnardos chief executive Suzanne Connolly said they changed their survey this year to reflect the difficult circumstances parents and their children find themselves in.

“It’s welcome that the Government’s plan to reopen schools includes comprehensive measures to support children and young people’s mental health and well being, but it is imperative these plans are implemented swiftly,” she said.

Barnardos wants schools to be provided with clear implementation guidelines and timelines to accompany the Roadmap for Reopening Schools and the wellbeing guidance document to ensure a coherent response across the school system, as well as give clarity to parents.

The charity is also demanding that school principals and teachers have access to resources to help children cope with the return to school. 

It wants schools to be able to respond appropriately to the ongoing impact of the pandemic in terms of mental health and wellbeing, and to be able to manage an increase in child protection and welfare referrals arising when schools reopen.

The survey also revealed the challenges of adapting to the changed circumstances brought on by the pandemic.

While most parents enjoyed spending more time with their children during public health restrictions, they found home-schooling difficult. About 80% of parents with primary school children found balancing work and home-schooling difficult, and it was the same for two-thirds of those with children at secondary school.

There were also concerns about the amount of work given to children, with one-third of parents saying their children either had too much or too little. Issues were also raised about the amount of support given by schools and access to technology at home.

Meanwhile, the survey also assessed the cost of going back to school. This year’s calculation is largely similar to 2019, with schoolbooks, stationery, and uniforms the largest expenditure items.

Overall, costs at primary level are slightly down on last year, while costs at secondary level remain unchanged.

However, seeking voluntary contributions is still common, and this is the item showing the greatest increase on last year.

Uniform and footwear costs are the items showing the greatest decrease from last year, with parents of primary school children reporting that they have come down from €160 in 2019 to an average of €135 now. Uniform costs reported by parents of secondary school pupils have also come down from €250 in 2019 to €215 this year.

Books remain a significant outlay for parents at the start of the school term. The average cost for primary school books is €110, with the average cost of secondary school books is €225.

Just under half (46%) of primary-school parents and 44% of secondary-school parents said the cost of their child’s books had increased since last year.

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