Research from the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) has revealed that 44% of schools anticipate having to increase their resource budgets by up to 10% to support upgraded home learning systems during the coronavirus lockdown.
Many schools that harbour inadequate digital infrastructure or online learning platforms will have to fork out £30 more per pupil in order to cope with the transition to remote learning models.
BESA points out their their findings come in the context of a mass reduction in schools’ IT funding. While secondary schools had £73 per pupil to spend on IT resources in 2012, that figure dropped to £48 per pupil by 2018. At primary level, the equivalent fall was from £62 to £53.
As a report by the The Educational Policy Institute details, if school spend across all different categories of expenditure has increased by 42% in real terms since 2003, spend on ICT resources has only increased by 17%.
Unprepared for remote learning
BESA believes this lack of spend translated to a lack of preparedness as COVID-19 caused school campuses to close, forcing educators to accelerate their digital transition to minimise disruption to their students’ education. The Association notes that:
- 33% of schools did not have effective online learning support platforms in place as of 2018, with a further 26% reporting that they did not have sufficient workbooks, textbooks and IT equipment to distribute to pupils. This resource gap impacts schools’ ability to provide satisfactory digital and physical resources to students during the closure.
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- In July 2019, a BESA survey of 1,300 school leaders found that only 36% of primary and 58% of secondary schools had implemented cloud or online-based learning platforms that could support home learning.
- Despite this, BESA’s March 2020 survey showed that 67% of UK schools at every level believe cloud or online-based learning platforms are the primary medium through which remote learning will be delivered, highlighting a clear gap in provision.
- To effectively upgrade their remote learning systems, the March 2020 survey revealed that 35% of schools predict that they will have to bolster their resource budgets by up to 10% per pupil; while another 9% believe they will have to increase their budget by more than 9%. For primary schools, where the average per pupil spend is £265, this would equate roughly to £25 in additional expenditure per pupil. For secondary schools, where the average per pupil spend is £368, this would equate to £35 additional per pupil spend.
Favoured remote learning mediums
BESA’s research also found that overall, 67% of UK schools anticipate that they will use general (as opposed to subject-specific) online or cloud-based learning platforms such as BBC Bitesize, their own VLE or commercial products to meet growing digital demands.
On top of this, 37% of schools feel they will need to supplement these with subject-specific online products and services.
In an interesting contrast, only 21% of schools believe they will deliver live or recorded lessons via web conferencing software such as Zoom; while only 17% plan to use podcasts; and 15% will host webinars.
BESA has launched LendED – a resource platform where schools and teachers can get best practice advice on devising a home learning strategy, as well as get extended access to digital learning resources – in response to their findings. The platform comes with filters that allow schools and teachers to search for downloadable content, content they are able to use offline or content that can be used on mobile, supporting low income families, families who reside in broadband ‘dead spots’ or areas with low network connectivity.
Caroline Wright, director general of BESA and acting co-chair of the Department for Education’s EdTech Leadership Group, told ET: “Like all our key workers, teachers and school leaders are going the extra mile every day in order to help support the nation during the coronavirus school closure period.
“The latest research from C3 Education shows that schools need additional funds to help implement remote learning effectively for children and families in their communities. The government has acted swiftly to support many areas of the economy during this time of need. It is vitally important that government also takes action now to alleviate the financial burden facing schools as they put in place essential measures to enable home-based learning for all children, including the most vulnerable and needy families in our society.”