1 in 4 parents feel children didn’t learn enough during Covid school closures

Posted on: 21 July 2020

A new survey of primary-school parents has provided a unique insight into parents’ experiences and concerns about home learning as a result of COVID-19.

Just over half of the parents surveyed said they were confident that their children continued to learn enough during school closures. Worryingly, more than a quarter reported that they felt their child was not continuing to learn enough.

The finding is consistent across all parents regardless of socio-economic status or school characteristics. However, parents of children with a disability and those with children in the senior primary classes were more likely to feel their child was not learning enough.

Poor school communication and lack of parent time to support learning are some of the factors cited by parents as impacting on their child’s learning.

One parent said

If we had a better understanding of exactly what the curriculum contains we could move forward faster and stop him being bored going over subjects he already knows.

Another parent said:

I know they’re doing work, but I don’t know if they’re learning anything as I don’t have teaching skills.

The COVID-19 Parent Survey, carried out by Trinity College Dublin, is the second in a series of three reports on the impact of Covid school closures on education in Ireland. The report on post-primary teachers’ perspectives was published earlier this month and a third report will focus on students.

Some of the findings are outlined under these headings below:

Support at home

Adults in the household were identified as the key support in helping their child learn. Materials and digital resources in the home as well as contact and materials from schools were also mentioned as important.

The report finds that three-quarters of parents were highly confident in supporting their child’s learning at home. Schools supports are a major factor in this confidence as well as knowing what was important for the child to learn and having the time to help.

Some 14% felt they were not able to help their child, with parents of children with disabilities feeling less able.

One parent said

It is extremely stressful trying to ensure the children have access to digital devices and internet, do their schoolwork with them to a good quality and also have to work myself. I feel like I am not giving enough time to either my children or my own work.


Parents were overall happy with the level of communication from schools with 79% saying it was ‘excellent’ or ‘good’. However, schools that communicated solely to provide work for students had significantly worse ratings.

When parents had contact with multiple people in the school (e.g. teacher, principal, SNA, HSCL, etc) they were more likely to rate communications as ‘excellent’.

Some of the points made by parents who rated communication from their school as ‘poor’ included: one-way communication, not providing feedback, limited social presence and limited opportunities for interaction.

Parents’ comments included:

There is a complete lack of consistency with each schools approach. Other primary schools in my area have continued to deliver lessons on Zoom – there has been no class since lockdown. My daughter has lost all interest; each week they send a long list of work but do not correct it.

The school has been excellent, and we cannot expect too much of them as they have their own families to care for.


One fifth of households did not have access to a good internet connection. An average of 3.3 household members were relying on a range of different devices for work or study.

Tablets were readily available in 79% of homes regardless of socio-economic status but laptops or desktop computers were less likely in households where parents were unemployed or did not have a third-level education.

Parents’ comments included:

Need a printer. School sends stuff but a lot of it needs printing and we don’t have one.

Internet is dreadful especially with both parents working from home via Internet.

The anonymous survey was carried out between May 27 and June 15 and 797 parents of children in primary school responded.

The survey is part of the Family Digital Literacy project funded by the Irish Research Council through COALESCE. The survey was carried out in cooperation with the Learnovate Centre in Trinity College Dublin, Amárach, NALA and the Family Digital Literacy project steering group.

A report entitled: ‘Parent Perspectives on Teaching and Learning During School Closures: Lessons Learned from Irish Primary Schools’ has been written based on the survey findings to provide an analysis of home learning experiences during Covid-19.

This report was compiled by Dr. Ann Devitt, Dr. Colm Ross, Dr. Aibhín Bray and Dr. Joanne Banks from the School of Education at Trinity College Dublin.

Dr. Ann Devitt,   Director of Research at the School of Education and the Academic Director at The Learnovate Centre, said:

It is clear from the analysis presented that greater support is required for parents to support home learning, some of which can be addressed at system level, some at school and class level and some in the home.

We would advise parents to continue to extend all the family learning and family literacy practices they are already doing. The key message from this report is that family learning is effective. All of the everyday activities which develop literacy, numeracy and other learning are hugely valuable for children whether as part of household chores or leisure activity.

They provide a meaningful context in which children can learn and practice their developing skills. There are many useful resources available online to support and enhance these practices in simple ways.

This full report is downloadable here:


For more information and for useful family learning supports: https://www.tcd.ie/Education/research/Family-Digital-Literacy/

Dr. Ann Devitt is a lecturer and researcher in language and literacy education at the School of Education in Trinity College Dublin. She is currently Director of Research at the School and Academic Director for The Learnovate Centre, one of Europe’s leading research centres in learning technologies based at TCD

Dr. Colm Ross is a researcher on family literacy on the Family Digital Literacy project in the School of Education at TCD

Dr. Aibhín Bray is a lecturer and researcher in education and leader of the mathematics strands in the School of Education at TCD.

Dr. Joanne Banks is a lecturer and researcher in inclusive education at the School of Education at TCD.

Learnovate is one of Europe’s leading research and innovation centres in learning technologies. An industry-led technology centre funded by Enterprise Ireland, Learnovate connects world-class academic research with entrepreneurs at the leading edge of the global learning technologies sector. Learnovate research fuses expertise in technology, the learning sciences, product design, user experience and strategic innovation to drive commercial success for the Centre’s industry partners. To find out more about Learnovate, visit www.learnovate.ie


Media Contact:

Catherine O’Mahony, Media Relations Officer | omahonc7@tcd.ie |