Parents on Mumsnet have delivered their verdicts at the end of a school year like no other. And while there’s widespread praise for how schools and teachers have performed, there’s quite a lot of dissatisfaction with how the government has handled the challenges of delivering education through multiple lockdowns and disruptions. Based on a survey of 1,172 parents who had children enrolled in school between September 2019 and June 2021, here’s the Mumsnet parents’ report card.
What went well
76% of parents say they are happy with how their children’s schools handled lockdowns. Most schools have exceeded expectations, with 40% saying they would give their children’s school an A grade or higher (that’s a grade 7, 8 or 9 under the new system), and 65% grading their school B+ or higher. Just 10% would give a grade D or lower.
77% of parents rated the quality of online lessons during lockdown as good or very good, 72% rated the quantity of online lessons good or very good, and 82% rated access to technology good or very good. Parents say schools upgraded their performance during the second lockdown, with an average of 4.2 hours of prerecorded or live lessons daily (compared to 2.3 hours in the first lockdown).
90% say they were happy with how their child’s school handled re-opening for all pupils. Now that schools are beginning to return to a new kind of normal, 77% say that their child’s school is good at communicating clearly with parents, and 88% say that their child’s school is good at following Covid rules.
68% agree that teachers should get a pay rise next year.
Even better if...
The GCSE and A Level system has been performing far below the expected level, with 73% of parents saying the process in summer 2020 (where grades were awarded by an algorithm based on schools’ prior grades, before the government u-turned and gave them based on teachers’ marks) was unfair. 54% of parents say the 2021 process (under which grades will be assessed by teachers) is still unfair, but less than half of these think there could have been a better solution.
Parents narrowly disagree with Gavin Williamson’s assessments of school pupils’ behaviour, with 52% saying ‘out of control behaviour’ and ‘children being slow to readjust to the classroom’ hasn’t been a problem in their school, while 36% say it has.
Breakfast and after school clubs - a core part of the wraparound childcare that enables many parents to work - are entirely closed to 15% and 16% of parents respectively. Just a third (33%) of parents say breakfast clubs are open as normal and 28% say that the same applies for their child’s after school club. 52% say that breakfast clubs are open, but with some restrictions, and 56% say the same of after school clubs.
Since schools returned in March, 60% of parents say mental health support for their children has been good or very good, dropping to 47% of parents of teenagers aged 15 to 19. 77% of parents say they would like to see increased mental health support for pupils, while 64% say they would like to see an increase in special educational needs support.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has blotted his copybook, with 41% of parents giving him a U grade and a further 20% giving him an E to G grade. 60% of parents who work as teachers gave him a U. When it comes to Shadow Education Minister Kate Green, 46% say they don’t know who she is. Of those who can place her, 57% give her a D grade or lower.
Just 7% of parents are happy with how the Westminster government as a whole handled the assessment and awarding of GCSEs, A Levels, BTECS, Highers and other qualifications in 2020.
Looking ahead to the next school year, 79% of parents are worried about continued disruption to education, and 46% are worried about Covid continuing to spread in schools. 19% would like to see exams suspended again in 2022; 39% would like to see schools offer holiday catch-up clubs for academic work.
Mumsnet Founder Justine Roberts said: “Many parents found homeschooling during lockdown a monumental struggle, but it seems clear most blame the government, not schools. In particular they believe Gavin Williamson’s performance requires significant improvement.”