Remote learning survey of parents and carers
In January 2021, following a return to lockdown and remote learning, this survey was sent to parents and carers of school-age children in South Ayrshire. It was completed by 2572 parents or carers, and included a variety of quantitative as well as 2 open-ended items which were subject to thematic analysis according to the framework outlined by Braun and Clarke (2006), as well as analysis based on the frequency of sentiments (important to note that many responses were coded for multiple sentiments).
1132 parents or carers gave input when asked for "Any other comments" - the main themes contained within their responses were as follows:
- Positive view of schools and teachers (345)
- Facilitating support and connection
- Quality and quantity of interactions (270)
- Generally felt supported (93)
- Pressure on parents
- Individual concerns (194)
- Pressure of working from home while home learning (364)
- Issues with delivery
- Challenges inherent to virtual learning (150)
- Method of delivering lessons (544)
Positive view of school and teachers
Many parents felt that their child's school or teacher was going "above and beyond" to support pupils and families with remote learning. They felt that schools and teachers were putting in lots of effort, and frequently commented that the quality of remote learning seemed to have improved since last year and the first lockdown. For many, the flexibility extended by schools was appreciated, as there are many families with circumstances that made home learning challenging. It was not uncommon for parents/carers to express gratitude towards their child or young person's school and teacher. General positive views of the "absolutely fantastic" job that schools are currently doing were present in the comments of many. It's worth noting that this theme was also often present in comments by individuals who expressed difficulties or challenges with home learning.
Facilitating support and connection
When discussing remote learning, parents made mention to the positive quality and quantity of the interactions between their child and their class teacher. Many appreciated the fact that feedback was regularly given, and felt that in turn they could give feedback to which the school was responsive. Several parents/carers stated that they were impressed with the quality of teaching remotely, and felt that their child(ren) was receiving a great amount of work at an appropriate level. Any opportunities for pupils to see their teacher and classmates were viewed positively, and parents stated that they were happy with class check-ins. Where schools also checked in with families, this was appreciated - these check-ins helped reduce feelings of isolation for children and parents/carers. It was reiterated often that children loved seeing their teachers on videos, and accessible teachers who facilitated live lessons were discussed positively. In conclusion, many parents felt that schools had been very supportive
- they felt cared about, and didn't feel under undue pressure around the remote learning workload.
Pressure on parents
Parents/carers discussed feeling under pressure - the most common sentiment within this question as a whole surrounded the challenges of being a working parent during remote learning (mentioned by 206 individuals) - this was true for parents who were working from home and for those who were keyworkers. This situation was stressful for many, and they discussed feeling overwhelmed by what was perceived to be too much work. Parents often felt under pressure to get everything done. Some subjects required a lot of parental input, or for children of a certain age engaging with home learning without parents supervision was not possible. Regardless of age, some parents stated that home learning simply did not suit their child. For some, this was because their child struggled to engage or pay attention to work online, for others this was due to an additional support need. A few parents felt that the equipment they had access to at home could not facilitate online learning, due to poor internet connections or old devices.
Issues with delivery
When discussing the challenges around the delivery of learning during lockdown, many of these were challenges which are inherent to remote learning. Some parents commented that "nothing compares to being at school with a teacher full time", and expressed concerns about their child's increase in screen time. It was again felt that some children or young people struggle to pay attention online, and motivating children without the presence of a teacher and classmates could be difficult. For a few families, navigating the virtual learning environment and finding work was a challenge, particularly where various virtual learning environments were used. For those with limited access to technology, increased availability of printed work was preferred or requested. As one might anticipate, many parents reported that their child or young person missed seeing their friends - the opportunity to see and catch up with friends was requested by several individuals. Many parents (182) expressed a desire for more live learning, or for more contact and direct input from teacher, . While a few felt they would prefer less live lessons and more paper copies of work, the preference of live teaching was the prevailing view of these parents/carers. Some perceived the work their child received to be too generic, not tailored to their child's specific needs, or at the wrong level, and felt that more feedback would be helpful. It was also expressed by 24 individuals that the work students received was of an insufficient quantity. Lastly, a few parents felt it was more important to focus on core subjects during remote learning. Parents and carers often expressed concerns about their child falling behind during this time, and worried about the long term impact of their child potentially not consolidating new learning - this concern about children falling behind was often linked to parents of children in exam years or those approaching transitions.
It's important to note that many individuals expressed views which were contradictory - e.g. one parent/carer might comment stating that they'd like more live lessons, and the next might comment that they'd like to see less live lessons as they don't suit their family's schedule. The results should therefore be viewed as a representation of the prevailing views of this group of parents/carers. 79 parents also stated that the quality of remote learning could vary between schools, within schools, and between children, and felt that it could in part be difficult to fully represent their experiences briefly in a survey. Parents/carers emphasized that parents are not teachers, and often expressed an understanding that they themselves and the schools were doing their best at a challenging time.
Costs associated with home learning
Participants were invited to share "any other costs because of remote learning" - 1315 individuals gave input to this item, though roughly 50% of individuals reported that they had experienced no additional costs. The main areas mentioned were:
- Utility costs (230)
- Gas and electricity bills went up, due to more time spent at home, using the heating more frequently in winter, and increased use of electricity due to charging multiple devices.
- Food (66)
- Wifi (54)
- Some individuals had to upgrade their broadband or purchase additional to access remote learning.
- Purchasing new devices (84)
- Costs associated with printing (101)
- Stationary (44)
- Missing out on paid employment (29)
- Costs to mental health (14)
Braun, V. and Clarke, V. (2006). Using Thematic Analysis in Psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77-101.