The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has once again forced the vast majority of parents/carers of school-aged children in Northern Ireland to engage in responsibility for ‘home-schooling’, with this second extended period of home learning extending from January to March/April 2021, with the exception of vulnerable children, the children of key workers and children attending special schools. In May 2020, the Centre for Research in Educational Underachievement (CREU) at Stranmillis University College, Belfast, published its first report on Home-Schooling in Northern Ireland During the COVID-19 Crisis (Walsh et al., 2020) which highlighted the often very different experiences of children and young people during the first six weeks of the first lockdown. Our report highlighted how home-schooling exacerbated existing inequalities: for instance, we found that less well educated parents felt less confident in supporting their children’s learning; we heard of particular frustrations expressed by working parents, especially key workers; and we learnt that digital poverty was presenting a challenge to many families with limited access to devices, printers and broadband.
As we entered the second period of extended home-schooling, CREU launched its follow-up online survey which remained open from 9th-22nd February 2021. The survey had 2002 usable responses, which included data for a total of 3668 individual children, from every part of Northern Ireland. Our comprehensive report shares preliminary findings in order to inform policy and practice in the short- to medium-term as government, schools and society continue to confront the challenges of Covid-19.