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Inspectors should probe quality of home-schooling in NI – commissioner

A review must clearly articulate the barriers and challenges that schools and children, young people and families have faced, Koulla Yiasouma added.

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Inspectors should investigate the quality of education which home-schooled youngsters have received, Koulla Yiasouma said (David Young/PA)

Inspectors should investigate the quality of education which home-schooled youngsters have received, Koulla Yiasouma said (David Young/PA)

Inspectors should investigate the quality of education which home-schooled youngsters have received, Koulla Yiasouma said (David Young/PA)

Inspectors should investigate the quality of education which home-schooled youngsters have received during lockdown in Northern Ireland, the Children’s Commissioner said.

A review must clearly articulate the barriers and challenges that schools, young people and their families have faced, Koulla Yiasouma added.

Since they closed in March to limit the spread of the coronavirus infection, the education and emotional well-being of many has suffered, the commissioner said.

She said: “ETI (Education Training Inspectorate) should assess the effectiveness of the education that children have received during the pandemic and the Restart Programme.

“This assessment should identify best practice as well as poor practice.

“It should clearly articulate the barriers and challenges that schools and children, young people and families have faced.”

She gives evidence later to a Stormont committee about children’s rights.

Schools are due to reopen for some classes from August with special arrangements to limit the spread of disease.

The two metre distancing rule between pupils is to be reduced to one metre, education minister Peter Weir said, to increase the number of pupils able to attend.

One way corridors and small group bubbles could also be established while some may only attend part time.

The commissioner warned: “Many children’s education and emotional well-being has suffered during the lockdown.

“We have sought the views of a number of children and young people about returning to school, and have heard from them that they want to go back but are anxious about whether they and their families will be safe.

Families are unique with many facing challenges that are unimaginable and therefore, it is inevitable that every child will have a different experienceChildren's Commissioner

“Children, young people and their families must be confident they will be as safe as possible when they return to school otherwise there will be further detrimental impact on their emotional well-being.”

She said it was vital that schools supported children and young people in the transition to educational readiness during the first term back.

“Young people are also anxious that they will have fallen far behind in their studies, and that this will have a long term impact on their educational achievement.”

She said it was unreasonable to expect schools and parents to replicate the school day in homes.

“Families are unique with many facing challenges that are unimaginable and therefore, it is inevitable that every child will have a different experience.

“Likewise, teachers may live in families and again it is not reasonable to expect them to provide a full-time education to children.

“Children and young people have been describing vastly different levels of support and education from schools as wells as different teachers within the same school.”

She said this has caused anxiety amongst many young people.

“The continued closure of schools has undoubtedly exacerbated educational inequalities, which were previously well documented before the pandemic.”

PA