Parents Wouldn’t Cope If Forced to Home-School Again

For many parents, it’s been one of the hardest parts of lockdown: home-schooling.

I mean, the regular grind of parenting and home life can be challenging enough without throwing in uncertainty around work, concerns over health and a bunch of government directives preventing you from doing many of things you took for granted.

But becoming quasi-teachers? Even the basics – coming to grips with the study matrices; the accessing and handing in of school work; logging onto Zoom roll-calls – are tricky!

After a week or two of attempting to school our three primary-aged daughters – while battling with them to view us as their “teachers” – my partner and I resolved to do what we could. If we managed to sneak in an hour or two between video meetings and deadlines each day, that was enough.

We simply didn’t have the energy or the inclination to push any harder. With the curve having flattened, we figured a month or two of not much schooling wouldn’t hurt them – or should that read, hoped?

It’s no surprise, then, that a prominent survey of parents revealed more than half of Australian families would not cope if schools closed again and they were forced back to home-schooling.

The 1,033-parent survey, from community babysitting and tutoring platform Juggle Street, also discovered that 70% of the audience felt their child had already been disadvantaged by schools closing.

Juggle Street CEO David James says: “As parents we all had to accept the school closures and ‘get on with it’, for the good of our children and to play our part in flattening the curve. And there was nothing we could do when our children’s sports and extracurricular activities were suspended.”

James adds that mums were most impacted during this period as they took on the bulk of home-schooling. “They were more likely to feel isolated and lockdown was more stressful for people with children in public primary schools.”

James found families surveyed fell into three groups: those who “thrived” (35%); those who “just coped” (48%); and those who “did not cope at all” (17%).

The “did not cope” segment felt isolation at the height of lockdown, with 37% in this category still experiencing very high levels of financial stress, and 29% stating that Covid-19 has impacted their finances “a lot”.

Most within this group still feel like they’re in survival mode, or have put all plans on hold.

The time children spent on ‘recreational screen time’ rose for seven out of 10 families, while over half said the lack of organised sport reduced their children’s time exercising.

Parents that “thrived” were mostly from higher-income households that subsequently faced less financial stress. They were also more likely to assert that their school was doing “a great job”.

Comparatively, those who “did not cope” felt their children’s school did a “terrible/not very good” job and were more likely to feel their child had been disadvantaged or fallen behind.

With parents’ attentions often comprised, disruption became an issue as the time children spent on “recreational screen time” rose for seven out of 10 families, while over half (52%) saw the lack of organised sport reduce their children’s time exercising.

But two-thirds of parents enjoyed the freedom of organised sports being suspended. And one third (or 35%) are happy for it to continue for a while. “The issue is, what will parents replace organised sports with; will it be quality family time or increased screen time?” commented James.

While restrictions have started to ease, one in four parents remain uncertain about the future. A quarter (26%) of those who “did not cope” believe they will be worse off a year from now, versus those that “thrived” (11%) or “just coped” (14%).

But James said parents saw the benefits of getting involved in their neighbourhood, albeit virtually. “When that neighbourhood support was missing, our survey showed the sense of loneliness and isolation increased to over half of parents,” he says.

“It is imperative we are conscious of our interactions with all our neighbours, especially during times of crisis.”

Juggle Street is an on-demand job platform for busy parents with children in daycare, primary school and high school. Parents set the price they are willing to pay for each job and helpers decide if the job is for them and apply or decline in real time. Helpers get paid by the family at the end of each job. 


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