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Two months into the school year, parents divided on preferences for in-person vs. remote learning: Poll

A little more than two months into the school year, the vast majority of B.C. parents are pleased with the government’s response to the pandemic and regulating how children in B.C. have gone back to school, according to a recent Insights West Poll. However, parents are still divided about their preferences between in-person and online instruction.

Overall support for how the provincial government has regulated how children have gone back to school during COVID-19 has increased since Insights West last polled on the subject just prior to the start of the school year. Currently, 58% of B.C. residents support the government’s current approach, which is 11 percentage points higher than support levels just before school started in September (levels of ‘strong support’ jumped from 13% to 21%, while the level of ‘somewhat support’ stayed consistent at 37%). Similar to September, the opinions of parents are even more strongly in favour of how schooling has been handled relative to residents without children. In fact, support for how children have gone back to school has jumped from 58% to 70% currently (including 27% who ‘strongly support’).

While support for the government’s schooling plans have improved, there is still a lack consensus around the range of preferences for online, in-person and mixed options for instruction. Back in September, the largest proportion of parents (41%) felt that a mix of online and in-person learning would be preferred, but this number has dropped to 32% currently. At the same time, the preference for in-person learning has increased from 27% to 45%, while the number who prefer all remote learning has dropped from 27% to 19%.

When parents are provided with an opportunity to rate the province1 and their children’s individual schools on different aspects of various COVID-19 protocols and procedures, ratings are consistently very positive overall, with little differentiation between scores between schools vs. the province. Scores are equally high for providing clear instructions on protocols and rules (66% for the province, 72% for the schools), and cleaning protocols (68% for the province’s rules and 63% for the schools’ execution of the cleaning). However, there is a gap between scores given for rules and regulations related to social distancing provided by the province and for schools (69% for the province’s rules vs 55% for the school’s enforcement) and mask wearing (62% for the province’s rules vs. 55% for the school’s enforcement). Scores are also high around communication of outbreaks (62% for the province, 66% for schools), which is strong considering the criticism they’ve faced over this in the news and on social media.

An Insights West poll released last week shows continued support for mandatory mask wearing in schools. There is overwhelming support for mandatory mask wearing in middle schools (83%), high schools (84%), and these levels have increased from the numbers polled back in September.

“Now that parents have had a couple of months to adjust to the new school routine, our latest poll shows significant levels of support for the province and individual school’s handling of the COVID-19 precautions and adaptations that needed to be made to in a new learning environment,” said Steve Mossop, president of Insights West. “That being said, there is still a segment of between 25% and 33% of parents who are not happy with the school system currently, especially with rising COVID-19 cases in the province and inconsistencies around communication of school outbreaks.”

[1] Respondents rated the province of BC, including the ministries of education and health.

About the survey:

Results are based on an online study conducted from November 4-8, 2020 among a sample of 802 B.C. residents and 315 parents of children in elementary, middle or high school. The margin of error—which measures sample variability—is +/- 3.5 percentage points for B.C. residents and +/- 5.5 for parents of school children, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies between totals are due to rounding. Click HERE to view the detailed data tabulations.

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