Many migrant children did not attend online classes during last lockdown, according to a study

Technology, language barriers face migrant pupils and parents with homeschooling

Many migrant pupils were unable to access remote tuition during school closures last year and risk losing out once again, according to new research.

The findings are contained in a study on the experiences of five inner-city primary and secondary schools during last year’s lockdown.

The research was conducted by the New Communities Partnership – a network of immigrant-led groups – and partly funded by State agencies.

All principals and homeschool community liaisons who took part in the study agreed that migrant parents’ level of support from home was highly challenged. A total of 80 per cent of principals and homeschool community liaisons said migrant children faced challenges accessing online classes and submitting homework due to issues such as lack of technology and language barriers.

There was particular concern over children from the Roma community.

Some 60 per cent of respondents said children from the Roma Community did not attend any school online during the last lockdown.

In these cases, parents did not respond to school correspondence which made it difficult to track and monitor children’s homework.

Cherif Labreche, chief executive of the New Communities Partnership, said the study has been prompted by “ massive concern” over the poor engagement of migrant pupils and their parents with schools.

“One of the primary reasons we wanted to conduct this report was to see how we could continue to support schools who are already under an extreme amount of pressure,” he said.

Éadaoin Kelly, principal of St Mary’s Primary School in Dublin 7, said while schools provided access to digital technology and wifi where it was needed, the delay in getting funding and providing the technology meant children had already missed up to two months at school.

“Their ability to re-connect and re-motivate was significantly harder. In lots of cases, despite lots of school contact with families, we struggled with engagement, especially with Roma families,” she said.

Marie Claire Vaughan, home school community liaison officer at St Peter’s National School, said that while families who were not engaging with school were provided with laptops, this alone did not resolve the challenges facing families.

“Unfortunately, some of our children did not have access to the internet and so were unable to engage online,” she said.

“We provided photocopied work weekly but were unable to give feedback in the circumstances. Both their living situation and the lack of English of parents significantly affected their ability to engage with online work.”

The study also provides anonymised case studies of individual families and the barriers they faced.

For example, in the case of a Roma family with five children ranging in age from seven to 13, none were found to have attended online classes during the lockdown.

In another case, language barriers among a Syrian family limited the extent to which the parents could support their five children.

Children were left to manage on their own and both parents had no communication with the school.

The challenges facing a Polish family were also highlighted. The single parent had limited English and had difficulty supporting her children – ranging in age from five to 16 – to attend school online.

Restrictions on home visits meant social services were not able to assist the family during the lockdown.

The report recommends a range of measures to boost outcomes for migrant children such as additional English language classes for children and parents; improving communications to ensure migrant families are not marginalised further; and improving access to digital technology and wifi.

Positive parenting guidelines and training, it says, would help boost parenting engagement, while cultural awareness training for teachers would assist in supporting families.

From The Irish Times