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Survey Shows How Families are Coping with the Impact of Covid-19

by Paul Nisbet

on Fri Apr 17, 2020

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Connect are running an online survey to gather the voices of parents and carers and the findings after one week give us insight to how families across Scotland are coping with the impact of Covid-19.

On Wednesday 1st April, Connect (formerly the Scottish Parent Teacher Council) launched a survey asking parents and carers "How are you doing?" and a week later there were 269 responses across 21 local authorities. The survey will run until April 30th if you would like to share your experiences.

You can read a summary of the first week's responses here, but the written comments and responses are what really give us a picture of the situation for families.

Many respondents seem to be coping fine but other people are finding life extremely difficult, particularly families with children who have additional support needs; families with teenagers for whom exams have been cancelled; single parent families; families where both parents are working at home; and families where parents are essential workers. A combination of several of these circumstances makes it even harder. There are some families in really distressing situations.

The team in CALL are here to help so if you want to talk to us about any aspects of assistive or communication technology, get in touch by phone, email, Facebook or Twitter and we’ll try our best to support you. If you have questions about digital learning and working at home in general (e.g. 'How do I get on Glow / Google Classroom?') then you should contact your child's school in the first instance, and if your child was using technology to access the curriculum in school, then the class/subject teacher or ASL staff are the first people to approach. But some families might not be sure how their home laptops and tablets can be set up and used for children with ASN to learn at home, so get in touch if you would like help.

Let's consider what 'learning at home' means though, and Eileen Prior, Executive Director of Connect has some great advice based on the comments from parents and carers:

We recognise that everyone is doing their best at a difficult time but we are asking schools and local authorities to pause, gather feedback from parents, children and young people, and consider what and how they are communicating with families.

The widespread use in social media and the media generally of phrases such as ‘home-schooling’, ‘home educating’ and ‘teaching at home’ put huge pressure on parents and families; most parents are not teachers and should not be expected to be delivering school learning at home as stand-ins for teachers and schools. We urge everyone to think about what ‘learning at home’ really means. Most parents are doing the best they can to keep children and young people happy, healthy and active: all of this involves ‘learning at home’.

Communication from school should not be about teaching but learning, recognising all the fantastic things families may already be doing – playing games together, reading, cooking, talking, listening, learning from one another, taking exercise. Some families need extra practical support to help them manage. For the schools who are not already doing so, please reach out to parents to ask how they are doing and how you can support them, rather than focusing on school work.

Leading parental engagement academic and author Dr Janet Goodall confirmed this and has a strong message for schools:

This is entirely right! Parental engagement in learning – which we have known for years is a vital part of educational achievement – is not now and never has been about parents delivering school based content. Now – as always – it’s about parents *supporting* learning. I would ask school staff to think carefully about what children and young people really need to learn; these are not normal times; children’ will not ‘fall behind others’ because everyone is in the same situation! Concentrate on what’s really important; the rest can be made up later and everyone will be doing the same thing.

Start from an asset based approach, as above – what are parents already doing? What can they do? Importantly, how can you help parents reassure their children? Keep in contact with families but try to avoid putting pressure on them. And don’t put too much pressure on yourself, or colleagues! The most important thing is first to stay safe, and to stay healthy.

Tags: covid-19, additional support needs, families

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