‘Bonds of Trust’ Broken Between Some Families and Schools Since COVID, Says Report

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A poll found that over a quarter of parents thought the lockdowns showed children don’t have to be in school every day

The “bonds of trust” between some parents and their children’s schools have been broken since the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report.

The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) think tank said a poll it conducted with YouGov found that over a quarter of parents (28 percent) agree with the statement “the pandemic has shown that it is not essential for children to attend school every day.

“A succession of post-pandemic strikes will have done little to rectify perceptions of school as optional, with a cumulative total of 25 million school days lost to industrial action in the 2022/2023 school year,” the CSJ said.

The poll also found that “a large minority” of parents didn’t feel they had the foundations of a good relationship with their child’s school.

The think tank, which advocates for improving social mobility by addressing problems including family breakdown, educational failure, worklessness, addiction, severe debt, criminal justice issues, and modern slavery, has published a number of reports on the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns on education.

The latest report, entitled “The Missing Link—Restoring the bond between schools and families,” analyzes the result of its polling in December 2023 of 1,206 parents whose children are aged between 5 and 16 and are enrolled in primary or secondary schools.

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While the majority of parents (88 percent) still agree that “every single day of school matters,” it’s clear that lockdowns have “had some impact on parents’ attitudes towards school attendance,” the report said.

Over half of parents (56 percent) said they felt their relationship with their child’s school has remained the same, with a further 27 percent saying the relationship has improved, but 16 percent of parents thought it has become worse.

According to the survey, almost four in 10 parents (38 percent) said the school didn’t communicate with them well enough. The problem is worse for fathers of single-parent families.

“One specific issue repeatedly raised by respondents was poor communication when parents were no longer living together, particularly communication with fathers,” the report said.

One father said, “They do not engage with me at all. Even though I have joint custody and shared parental rights everything is communicated through my ex-wife.”

According to research published by the Marriage Foundation, by the age of 14, almost half (46 percent) of UK children are not living with both natural parents.

The CSJ said most parents (77 percent) said they trust their child’s school to provide a quality education, but it drops to 70 percent among both low-income households and in relation to secondary schools.

A significant proportion of parents are also feeling they need more support from the school, the survey found. Over a third (35 percent) said they are worried about their child’s performance and would like more support from the school, and 18 percent were worried about their child’s attendance.

Seven in 10 parents (70 percent) said they are confident that their child’s needs are met at school, but almost one in five (18 percent) do not feel confident.

“Amongst those with a child in secondary school, confidence amongst parents drops to 61 percent,” the CSJ said.

The think tank called on the government to create a National Parental Participation Strategy that includes best practice guidance “for schools and parents to engage more meaningfully with each other.”

It also recommended measures including a nationwide attendance mentors rollout, making Department for Education guidance on attendance statutory, and improving access to sports, youth clubs, and services.

Writing in the foreword, Andy Cook, CEO of the CSJ, said, “The attendance mentor programme is an important emergency response to a desperate situation, but for sustainable change we need to rebuild trust between schools, parents, and the children they cherish.

“This requires a more fundamental shift in approach to the partnership between schools and families—and the role of government in supporting parents—where all work together in the interest of children.”

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