Covid in Scotland: Parents' verdicts on week one of home-schooling

By Debbie Jackson
BBC Scotland

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Quinn and KaiImage source, Donna Bruce
Image caption,
Quinn and Kai got off to a good start after technical issues across the UK with Microsoft

The new school term began in Scotland this week - but many pupils and teachers did not return to the classroom.

Instead, laptops, tablets and exercise books were opened on kitchen tables across the country as home-schooling began again in earnest.

But did it get any better? We asked some parents about their experience of home-schooling during the latest coronavirus lockdown.

'At the end of every day I question if I have done enough'

During the first lockdown Donna Bruce, from Rutherglen in South Lanarkshire, juggled a full-time job and working from home while looking after her two children, Kai, 10, and eight-year-old Quinn.

She didn't have enough devices for all three of them, and she had to occupy the children for seven hours a day while working at the same time.

Her early Zoom meetings enjoyed guest appearances from half-naked children climbing kitchen cupboards to find snacks.

This time round, she feels schools and teachers were better prepared.

"Teachers had made videos talking to the children and reassuring them," she said.

"I feel there is less pressure this time on parents and children, but children still need supervised and their time still needs occupied to allow parents to work and that's when the issues come in."

Image source, Donna Bruce
Image caption,
Some children got video messages from their teachers

"On day one, they finished all their assigned school work by 11:00 and I was working until 16:30," she added.

"I feel anxious and worry as the novelty wears off and my work gets busier, how I will cope.

"At the end of every day I question if I have done enough and try to remind myself it's not a race or a competition - if we all survive to tell this story in the future's history lesson then that's all that matters."

'None of us were looking forward to it'

Kirsteen Roberts, from East Lothian, found the first lockdown stressful.

Her son Finn is in S2, while daughters Layla and Summer are in P7 and P3 respectively. The primary school work was structured with teacher contact but the secondary work was "patchy".

She said the younger two were pretty motivated but the eldest was frustrated and didn't have enough to do.

"With school, plus keeping on top of Zooms for extra curricular activities, I felt a huge pressure," she said.

Image source, Donna Bruce
Image caption,
During the first lockdown, good weather meant children could get outside more

Kirsteen was disappointed to return to online learning.

"None of us were looking forward to it and I feared that no work would be posted on the first day," she said.

"Thankfully I was proved wrong. The secondary school teachers have organised weekly class Google Meets this time around which is a big improvement.

"Everything went well technically and the first day went pretty smoothly - only two out of three of them ended up in tears after putting pressure on themselves.

"I feel we can get through it intact - as long as it really only is a few weeks this time.

"I think workwise the kids will get enough of what they need from the school without me having to find more on the BBC or websites like Twinkl, but it's still hard on them and they miss the classroom contact."

Resources to support learners, teachers and parents during lockdown.

'I had forgotten how stressful it was'

Fiona Keiller, from Perth and Kinross, is a single parent to Ross who is in P6.

She said there were "good days and bad days" during the first stint of home learning. She did not feel her son was getting enough to do and she was also working full-time from home.

This time around she was told Ross would have two live sessions per week via Microsoft Teams.

"My son struggles to get on with the tasks without my assistance, so he insists on trying to rope me into helping him, which is difficult when I am in meetings and trying to do my own work," Fiona said.

"I felt worse after the first day, I had forgotten just how stressful it is. Hopefully we will find our groove by week two, but I worry whether Teams is going to cope with the amount of traffic on it."

'Teacher welcome video was appreciated'

Image source, PA Media

Emily Black is a keyworker from Aberdeenshire, with a daughter in S1 and a son in P1.

The first time schools were closed, her daughter tried to complete tasks while her little brother tried to play with her.

"My son's behaviour became concerning and my daughter cried every day," she said.

This time round, their rural internet has proved a problem.

"My daughter was up and at her laptop at 08:45. She is used to using Teams for homework but when it decided to play up, I thought she was going to launch her laptop out of the window," she said.

"My son really appreciated the welcome video message from his teacher so was a lot more engaged after his teacher had told him to do his jobs and then he could have fun.

"It went a lot better than I expected. But it has also exposed that I'm not a teacher and I would struggle to keep this up longer-term, trying to help both of them - at some times simultaneously. But I don't know if it will be the same in a couple of weeks."

'They are getting a full curriculum each day'

Image source, PA Media

Mark Cummings from East Dunbartonshire has two daughters, one in P2 and one in kindergarten. Both attend an independent fee-paying school.

He was disappointed by the timing of this government's decision - just after the festive break - but he said his daughter's school has been "excellent".

"They are well organised and clear in what they are trying to do," he said.

"Our daughters are getting a full curriculum each day (two live lessons with teacher and classmates and four pre-recorded topic lessons). It is not comparable to the experience they get at school but is a great effort nonetheless."

But he is concerned about the long-term effects of home-learning.

"Online learning is not adequate and will lead to greater disparity in learning between different types of pupils who attend different types of schools," he said.