'I feel guilty that I can't help my daughter with her school work': Lancashire parents weigh-in on the reality of homeschooling in a pandemic

Parents were once again thrown into a repeat of the first lockdown when schools were closed again on January 5 in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19.

By James Holt
Friday, 22nd January 2021, 4:07 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd January 2021, 4:10 pm

It is thought that schools could even remain closed until after Easter, but Education Secretary Gavin Williamson recently announced his hopes for schools to return after the February half-term.

The Post spoke to Lancashire parents who are trapped between working from their lounge whilst homeschooling their children, with many feeling like they're not able to concentrate fully on their jobs or feeling guilty for the lack of time given to their own children.

Mum-of-one Katie Kellett, 29, from Cottam, works from home as a rota coordinator whilst her partner goes to work six days a week - but also has to look after her daughter Summer, 5, who has been given work to complete from school.

Mum-of-one Katie works from home with her daughter Summer who also needs attention with her school work

She said she feels "guilty" for having to prioritise deadlines in her job over helping her daughter with her school work.

She said: "Before the pandemic, we had a routine of getting up and taking her to school before going to work but now, that has completely gone.

"If I really need to help Summer with some school work, everything else gets pushed back which means I have to work way into the evenings which feels like I am working a 24 hour day.

"Work often has to be a priority because it pays the bills, but that means that homeschooling tasks have to be put on the back burner, which is when the guilt kicks in and I feel like I am not doing enough for my child.

Five-year-old Summer has to complete school work whilst mum Katie works full time from home

"Having a five-year-old means she can't do much for herself which is challenging with me working from home and leaves me feeling like I am being pulled in every direction possible which means we both get stressed.

"I don't think there is a solution to this until schools open again. Teachers are brilliant and understanding by keeping in touch because they are also teaching classes of key worker children, but I am still worried about my daughter's development with her missing work because I can't be there to help her.

"It is certainly not easy, and I am having to try and teach myself the phonics work she is being set. There is a lot of pressure on the teachers and also the parents who are having to work their normal jobs.

"I'm losing my mind. I can't be furloughed as I'm a key worker but it would be unfair to send my child to school as I'm working from home. I am finding it very difficult to balance everything."

11-year-old Jacob works from home whilst mum Katie Campbell works 55 hours a week

Last year, the government closed schools between March and September as Covid cases began to rapidly increase across the country.

And recent rises in cases is what led primary schools, high schools and colleges to have their doors closed once again, meaning parents working from home had to pick up the reigns.

Samantha Johnstone-Moran, mum-of-three said: "Children thrive off routine, learning and socialising. Even though I am trying my best, at the end of each day I still feel I should be doing more.

"It is really difficult this time around because I think the first lockdown was a novelty. The weeks were extended gradually the weather was nice it didn't seem like a long amount of time.

"This lockdown feels very different. My son knows he will be off for six weeks or longer, so it's difficult to keep him engaged in his school work. He asks most days if I think the lockdown will be extended and I haven't got the heart to tell him it might.

"The platform the school use for his work is not compatible with our laptop and the school can't lend him any technology, so he is getting by on the technology we have available to him but it's not ideal.

"I am also working from home full time so I don't have any time to help when they get stuck. I have never appreciated the school and the teachers so much."

Parents were quick to commend teachers for their efforts during the pandemic, who have also faced the challenges brought by the virus, with four per cent of teachers in the borough absent on one day last month.

The Association of School and College Leaders added the past few months of the pandemic had put English schools under “enormous pressure”, and are now calling for education staff to now be prioritised for the vaccine.

Department for Education figures shows 87 teachers and school leaders in Lancashire state schools were absent with either a suspected or confirmed case of Covid-19 on December 17, with a further 130 forced to isolate.

This means 217 were off for Covid-19 related reasons on just one day – 3.4 per cent of all teachers in schools that remained open. This was down from 4.2 per cent on the same day the week before, and 6.2 per cent on October 15, the first date the survey was conducted.

Katie Campbell, 33, from Preston, is homeschooling her two children, Jacob, 11 and Olivia, 14, whilst working from home in social services.

She sits on the computer studying for her masters, alongside her full-time job, until as late as 3am every morning.

She said: "School have been so understanding and communicating with us but it is still very challenging. My eldest daughter is doing her GCSE subjects and is starting to feel the pressure with learning online and not always understanding the work with the mixed communication.

"My son Jacob is struggling with coming to terms with online learning, so it has been twice as hard for him. We do teachers help but they are human and also under pressure and it is much harder to help him online. It has been a lot more frustrating for him which could have had an impact on his high school transition.

"I haven't got anyone in my family who are able to be hands on so I feel awful that I can't help them as much as I would like to, but I also have a job to do. I am completely burnt out working 55 hours a week and then up at nights helping with homework.

"The most difficult part is the expectations that parents can just stop to assist the children. I can't do that in my job and being a single mum, I have had to buy laptops so that we all have one in the household.

"It is extremely exhausting on both the parents and the children."

In a post shared to social media, The Post asked parents what their biggest challenges were when working from home with children.

One commented: "I’m shattered. I am working 12 hour days between the office, home and homeschooling two children. I can’t possibly give my daughter the attention she needs and work full time, not to mention maintain the house too, it’s exhausting and scary to think how far behind the kids are getting in their education.

Another said: "My wife is a teacher trying to teach her kids online and have meetings, all whilst trying to homeschool an emotional eight year old at the same time. Impossible."

Currently, around one million laptops and tablets have now been made available for disadvantaged young people across England, but education secretary Gavin Williamson said that figure will rise to 1.3 million with a further 300,000 devices.

Department for Education data shows 12,864 laptops and tablets had been sent to Lancashire County Council or its maintained schools as of January 17.

Children are classed as disadvantaged if they have no digital devices or are sharing a single device in their household, or they only have access to a smartphone.

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