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40% of teachers concerned about how play-based lessons will be affected by Covid-19 restrictions

That’s according to a new study published by DCU researchers.

Image: Shutterstock/Marko Poplasen

FOUR IN TEN teachers who took part in a new study are concerned about how play and play-based lessons will be impacted by measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 in schools. 

The research, carried out by Dr Sinéad McNally and Christina O’Keeffe of DCU’s Institute of Education, aimed to identify teachers’ attitudes to play throughout the initial school closures, attitudes to play more generally in education, and intentions to incorporate play in their teachings during return to schooling. 

Schools in Ireland, which closed in early March, are now due to reopen next week with a series of new measures in place to protect against Covid-19. 

These include placing children in pods, social distancing, additional cleaning, and the wearing of personal protective equipment by teachers. 

Participants in the study showed a strong commitment to using play-based strategies in early childhood classrooms when schools reopen.

However, teachers highlighted the potential adverse impact on play-based activities/classes, owing to new regulations in schools to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Over 309 primary school teachers, who are currently teaching or have previously taught in early childhood classrooms, took part in the study. 

40% of respondents were concerned about capacity in schools to ensure play-time is facilitated. 

Almost all teachers (99%) intended to use play as a pedagogical strategy upon schools reopening.

Teachers believed play was an especially important pedagogical tool in supporting young children’s social and emotional development, learning and transition back to school.

87% of teachers indicated that play would have a significant role in their approaches to supporting children’s transition to school upon reopening.

82% of teachers recommended play strategies to parents during remote teaching and homeschooling.

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One mainstream class teacher who took part in the survey said: “I’m worried that we won’t be allowed to play with current restrictions and I don’t have the time to be washing all the toys daily. 

“I’m worried I can’t facilitate play as I have in the past because of restrictions.” 

Another teacher said: “I am unsure as to how play will be carried out when pupils return to school in September. Even if infants aren’t required to socially distance, will the teacher be able to get ‘stuck-in’ with the children and to what extent can resources for play be shared?”

Dr Sinéad McNally said that “play is one of the most essential ways in which we can support young children in a time of crisis”.

“We also know that teachers have a critical role in supporting young children’s play in early childhood classroom,” McNally said. 

“As schools reopen and the educational landscape changes during the pandemic, it is important that supporting children’s play is a central part of discussions around delivery of early childhood education in the pandemic,” she said.

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