Less than 3% of teachers have felt supported by the Department for Education (DfE) since the start of the pandemic, suggests new research by Cambridge Partnership for Education.
A survey of more than 1,700 people suggests that very few teachers (2.5%) have received the support they needed from the DfE since March 2020.
The pandemic has led to widespread, prolonged school closures and exam cancellations.
The ministry’s approach t0 communication left headteachers confused, researchers found, with many reportedly receiving insufficient advice and incomplete guidelines. More than 30% of headteachers, teachers and parents felt supported by their colleagues and school leaders.
The research is by the Cambridge Partnership for Education, which brings together the collective education reform knowledge of Cambridge Assessment and Cambridge University Press, in conjunction with EDUCATE Ventures, a research and development company for the edtech sector.
Researchers concluded that “too little attention was paid to the education ecosystem, in its entirety, when schools closed to the majority of pupils”.
They blamed “ineffective connections and communications” between government and school leaders which “compromised the integrity of the whole ecosystem and disabled it from being self-supporting”.
“Decades of research into online learning was not utilised by either the government or schools,” they added.
Researchers interviewed 46 educators, including nine working in independent schools and 37 in state schools.
From the conversations, researchers derived a set of recommendations for ministers and civil servants, including avoiding out-of-office-hours communications, highlighting changes to guidelines succinctly, and clarifying explicitly that which is guidance and regulation.
Asked to name the principal challenge posed by the pandemic, nearly four in 10 teachers (38%) said work-life balance; a third feared students ‘falling behind’ (33%), and three in 10 said, “confusing messages and guidelines from the government” (28%).
School leaders (74%), teachers (81%) and parents (68%) reported using or recommending technologies they had not used before – but the rush to teach online “was weakened”, researchers said, because edtech providers did not consider safeguarding issues, which is of “paramount importance” to teachers.
“Our data illustrates how edtech companies strived to support educators, parents and learners, through connecting with their needs and collecting data to explore how well these needs were being met” – Prof Rose Luckin
The report advocates the government institute a “national digital data infrastructure built on shared open interoperability standards and governed impartiality”. The benefits of such a system would be high levels of privacy and security – and long-term online tools for schools. It also suggests state-provided personal devices, broadband and training for all learners. Schools should “reduce the reliance on attendance as a proxy for education and learning”, the report proposes, and instead use engagement.
These recommendations aim to level the playing field for disadvantaged learners. Thirty-one percent of private schools provided four or more live online lessons daily, compared with just 6% in state schools. Parents of children with Special Educational Needs were particularly disadvantaged. Sixty-eight percent found home learning very challenging and only 28% agreed that their child’s educational placement had provided ‘very good’ support.
Prof Rose Luckin, professor of learner-centred design at UCL Knowledge Lab and director of EDUCATE Ventures, said: “Effective communication, support and collaboration between the different parts of the education system is essential for an effective response to the COVID-19 restrictions.
“Our data illustrates how edtech companies strived to support educators, parents and learners, through connecting with their needs and collecting data to explore how well these needs were being met.”
Jane Mann, managing director, Cambridge Partnership for Education, said: “Listening to voices across education systems is vital. This is a unique moment for ministries of education, leaders and educators around the world. There are intense challenges, but there is also rapid discovery. Listening, learning and responding together will fuel real progress in education.”
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