Teachers have noticed increasing levels of anxiety and worry among second-class students, arising from “changing family and societal structures”, including poverty, family breakdown, and working life.
The impact of extensive screen time on children is also a concern noted by teachers during interviews carried out under a new research study documenting children’s experience of school.
More than half of the teachers surveyed said they believed children in their class are anxious about their performance on standardised tests.
The details are included in the first two reports from the Children’s School Lives research, a major new study following 4,000 students nationwide on their journey through school.
Carried out by University College Dublin’s (UCD) School of Education on behalf of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), the findings of Children's School Lives over the next five years will feed directly into the NCCA’s work on curriculum.
It will help ensure a "full account is taken of children’s experiences and perspectives on what matters to them in their young lives" which will feed into the review of the primary curriculum, according to Arlene Forster, NCCA chief executive.
The first two reports published today focus on introducing the children taking part, as well as documenting the sudden move to remote learning during the first wave of the pandemic earlier this year.
One third (33%) of principals reported having some homeless children in their schools, the study found.
Polish is the second most frequent language spoken at home by the children after English, reported by 4.3% of children.
Irish was spoken at home by 1.8% of children.
Extra-curricular subjects were important for students, with almost half reporting that they often played team sports, almost 40% often taking part in music, dance, art or swimming lessons.
When asked what subjects they typically focus on if they have discretionary teaching time, teachers tended to say English, Maths, PE, or SPHE.
PE, Art, and Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE) which includes history, geography, and science, were the most interesting subjects for students themselves.
More than a quarter of students (26%) said Irish was “not very” useful as a subject for their life.
A further 42% said the subject was not very interesting to them, and 34% said they were not very good at it.
The second of the two reports, focusing on teaching during the pandemic highlights the key role principals and teachers played as a frontline service to local communities in need during a period of national emergency, the study notes.
"However substantive equality concerns arise. The experience of remote schooling was not uniform among children and their families.
"Neither was provision of remote learning uniform among schools. All were on a steep learning curve."
The full reports can be accessed on www.cslstudy.ie