Working parents home-schooling children with special educational needs during a pandemic: How best can mainstream schools help through digital technologies?

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The competing demands of home-schooling and work commitments during the Covid-19 pandemic left working parents of primary school children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) exhausted, anxious about their ability to cope, and concerned for their children’s learning and their future. This case study explored how mainstream primary schools could best facilitate the numerous challenges of home education using digital technology. Using a qualitative approach, four interviews were conducted with two parents of SEN children, one each before the first lockdown and following the second lockdown. Transcription, facilitating data analysis, was done through Otter Artificial Intelligence software. Research questions focused on the nature and extent of digital communication from schools, adjustments during the second lockdown, inclusive practices, differentiated provision, and guidance to nurture the children’s emotional well-being. The results showed that online school contact with parents and children varied markedly in quality and frequency between different teachers, with more differentiated provision during the second lockdown particularly from the Special Educational Needs Coordinators (SENCOs) and Classroom Assistants (CAs). The value of these paraprofessionals establishing and maintaining online home-school links, namely, the SENCOs’ online engagement with parents to identify and manage new problems, and the CAs’ rapport and direct contact with the children offering practical help and coping strategies, was underlined. For future remote education, parents sought direction from mainstream schools about learning objectives, practical ways for children with special needs to understand abstract concepts, and weekly online activities with peers to work together in small groups and for social interaction. Appropriate levels of challenge were essential for SEN children linked to their developmental, physical and emotional needs, with consistent communication between parents, teachers and SENCOs, and the maintaining of records for subsequent assessment. Once schools re-opened fully, teachers needed to consider pastoral issues including coping strategies for pupils following extended periods of absence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
JournalStudies in Technology Enhanced Learning
Issue number3
Early online date22 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished online - 22 Dec 2023


  • Covid-19 pandemic
  • school closures
  • home-schooling
  • digital technologies
  • working parents
  • special educational needs
  • inclusion
  • differentiation


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