Promethean’s State of Technology report explores school budgets and CPD

Following the recently-launched edtech strategy and usage sections, Promethean has unveiled the next two parts of this year’s report

Promethean has released the next two sections of this year’s State of Technology in Education Report, delving into all things teacher training, CPD and edtech budgets in UK schools.

Following on from the strategy and usage sections published earlier this month, the two new portions in Promethean’s fifth annual report collate the insights and opinions of more than 2,000 educators, delving deeper into one of the most transformative years the edtech sector has seen so far.

Teacher training and CPD

The disruption that has defined 2020 has forced schools to reconsider how they use technology for simple tasks such as setting homework, classroom teaching and communication. While schools are now back open, the majority of educators are keen to see the seamless integration of tech alongside traditional teaching methods – but the report worryingly highlights that rates of teacher training are at an all time low.

According to the study, only 1% of schools are treating tech training as a pressing need, dropping 23% in priority over the last five years; while 41% of respondents claim staff have had to commit to training in their own time out of school.

Of all the school objectives specified for the upcoming year, teacher training lands third from the bottom, prioritised above soft skills development and technology updates only.

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On top of this, 59% of educators admit that, while tech is openly available in their school, staff are not granted adequate support when it comes to use. Thirty-six percent of SLT respondents believe their provision of tech training is sufficient, compared to just 19% of teaching staff. Only 6% of educators feel they have been offered comprehensive edtech training.

Fifty-five percent of senior leaders and managers list staff training as a funding priority, but it seems the proof may not be in the pudding, with only 30% of IT teachers and managers agreeing with that same statement.

In terms of what schools consider to be the most important types of teacher training, 29% of respondents listed pupil safety as the highest priority, with training in governmental policy changes coming in second at 23%.

While just over 1% of schools identify tech training as a priority, 41% of teachers claim to disagree with their institution’s training preferences.

It’s clear that staff demand for training is on the up, but teachers feel restricted by a significant lack of time and money. Forty-nine percent of educators cite budget as the main inhibitor of training in their school, followed by time restrictions at almost 33%.

Thoughts about tech training are on a downward trend, with opinions becoming increasingly negative over recent years. The number of teachers receiving suitable training has declined by 11% in five years, while the number of teachers expected to train themselves has surged by 14% in the same time.

But why is this shift taking place? According to Promethean, the data suggests that issues such as online security and safeguarding have become increasingly pressing with the widespread use of digital tools, as teachers simultaneously become more confident with classroom tech and the number of educators who don’t know their school’s training priorities is steadily on the rise.

“Technologies and tools are constantly evolving,” notes the report. “The more confident teachers become, the more they want to learn. Ongoing tech training is required to unite the tricks learnt during lockdown with long-term classroom learning goals.”

School budgets

In April 2020, the government announced a funding scheme to support schools with the costs associated with their response to COVID-19. Promethean’s survey suggests that, despite this, the majority of educators were already concerned about the impact of budget on strategy prior to the pandemic. The report states that this ongoing financial strain has forced schools to invest more carefully in edtech that genuinely supports their goals.

It’s a positive that the number of educators who believe their institution is investing money into the right technology has grown 13% in the last five years, and 54% of senior leaders consider budget a key factor when devising their school strategy, with a further 38% agreeing that it’s a consideration.

Worryingly, however, IT managers have lost the most confidence in their schools’ tech budgets. While in 2016, 46% said they were happy with their institution’s level of tech investment, just 19% would say the same today. On top of this, 45% of teachers say they have no visibility on their school’s edtech budget.

“The use of technology in school at the minute is a frustrating affair. Much of the equipment, both pupil and teacher, is out of date or budget so performance is hampered. Where there is up-to-date equipment it is restricted by knowledge or held back by outdated equipment, e.g. IWBs connected t0 outdated or under-specced laptops that can’t keep up with them” – Teacher/Senior Teacher, Academy Primary, North East

Despite the promise of government funding, budgets remain an overwhelming concern for school staff. Forty-five percent of SLT respondents, for example, expect budgets to make 2021’s strategic goals much more tricky to achieve. Most staff members seem to feel the same, with a similar number of teachers and IT staff citing the same strategic concerns.

Many expect salaries to be schools’ largest budgetary expenditure next year, with 60% of respondents naming it as such, and a further third of admitting that it’s still not clear exactly where their school’s money is spent.

Of all survey responses, the greatest proportion of educators (37%) agree that too little is being invested in edtech, and IT staff are the most critical of all – with 44% saying budgets are too tight, compared to a third of teachers. These figures make sense when you consider that most teachers have no visibility on where or how the tech budget is being spent.

This trend has been evident for at least the last five years, peaking in 2019, when 46% of educators agreed that too little of their school’s budget is given to tech. While in 2015, 29% of educators believed their school’s tech budget was adequate, just 13% would say the same today.

On a more positive note, the overall perception is that schools are generally making smarter tech investments, with the number of respondents saying that their school is incorrectly investing money declining by 13% in five years.

“Budgets continue to be a disagreeable subject for educators,” the report explains. “Almost all staff agree that financial constraints are holding back their school’s potential and their pupils’ access to the best educational tools. This hasn’t changed in half a decade.

“While the weight of concern around budgets hasn’t lightened, it’s forced schools to think strategically when it comes to technology. There might not be enough funding, but more schools are making smarter investments. They are getting better at repurposing existing tech or choosing upgradable tools with lower total cost of ownership.”

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