Documenting the impact of COVID-19 on Our Place communities

Recognising the impact that COVID-19 had on the work of Our Place and our communities, the Research and Evaluation team have captured the experiences of those involved, particularly the impact on implementation and outcomes.

Information was gathered from four perspectives using a story-telling evaluation method (Most Significant Change) via phone and online consultations with 21 Our Place staff members, seven early learning partners, eight schools and 120 parents. Parent information was gathered through community consultation processes that were already underway.

The pandemic, and learning from home in particular, was a challenging time for schools and early learning centres, from educators through to those in leadership positions. Principals, early learning providers, teachers and educators worked hard to minimise the disruption to children’s learning through access to equipment and devices and converting to an online teaching model. For some it was an opportunity to build stronger relationships and connections with parents.

From the perspective of parents, the COVID-19 pandemic brought about both positive and negative consequences, however for most the negatives outweighed positives. The main positives were spending more time with immediate family and learning from home providing an opportunity for parents to understand more about what and how children learn.

The main challenges noted by parents included social isolation, mental health concerns, balancing learning from home and work or study while keeping children engaged, financial hardship, job insecurity and unemployment, reduced activities and boredom amongst children and teenagers, and reduced supports and services. Particular challenges for new mothers, children with additional needs and single parents were also highlighted.

The main impacts on children, according to parents, were also mainly negative. These included missing friends and limited social contact, a decreased motivation to learn, reduced wellbeing/increased stress, too much screen time and technology use, children missing their teacher and falling behind in schoolwork. Other impacts reported included work refusal, negative behavior, reduced outdoor time, learning difficulties and poor internet access.

The information collected on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Our Place and its communities, while not a comprehensive picture, has given us a useful snapshot and has helped to highlight the unique nature of 2020. Findings have helped inform the strategic planning process for sites and will be useful long-term in documenting and understanding the implementation of the Our Place approach over time.