Half of all parents are worried about their children returning to school, according to a survey published by Barnardos.

The children's charity was in touch with 1,765 parents, the majority of whom believed school was an emotional and social benefit for their child.

However, 16% of primary school parents, and 21% of secondary school parents said they would prefer if their child was not returning to school to reduce their risk of contracting Covid-19.

"They are also concerned of further impacts of social distancing, or lack thereof, in schools, and have expressed anxieties around Covid-19," said Barnardos CEO Suzanne Connolly.

The anonymous survey was completed online by parents with school-aged children in early July - before the publication of Government guidelines this week.

The poll was advertised on Barnardos social media channels and parents were contacted directly by email. Around 60% of the respondents were primary school parents with the remainder those of children attending secondary school.

It found that the majority of parents felt they had insufficient information about their child's return to school.

Most parents felt that balancing work and home-schooling was difficult, while more than a quarter believed they did not receive enough support from their school.

Barnardos is also calling for attention to the cost of sending a child to school in 2020, which it said carries a price tag of €330 for a senior infants pupil, €365 for a fourth class pupil, and €735 for a first year student.

In January, the Government announced a €1m pilot scheme to provide free schools for 15,000 children in DEIS primary schools but Barnardos says more needs to be done.

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It recommends the Government upholds "a child's constitutional right to free primary education by committing in Budget 2021 to invest and extra €103.2 million annually".

Ms Connolly said iron-on crests could be used to reduce the cost of school uniforms, but this is at the discretion of boards of management.

For the first time, it also surveyed children on their views about returning to education, and 60% said they were worried about Covid-19 when thinking of heading back into school.

"It is important that children's concerns are heard and they are able to voice them. They have a range of anxieties," Ms Connolly said.

"It is welcome that the Government's plan to reopen schools includes comprehensive measures to support children and young people's mental health and wellbeing; but it is imperative these plans are implemented swiftly," she added.

While most of the 255 children surveyed said they were looking forward to seeing their teachers, 25% said they were not.

"This shows that for many children, school is not necessarily a happy place," Ms Connolly said.

However, as pupils head back to the school gate as many as 30% are looking forward to receiving homework again.