Analysing results from an online survey of more than 1,000 UK teachers, the study uncovered a lack of clear strategy from school leaders, IT departments and classroom staff to combine technology and learning as effectively as possible.
Almost three-quarters of respondents at both primary- and secondary-level strongly believe that students will still need to rely heavily on digital tools for learning, despite schools reopening in September.
Both primary and secondary institutes opened their doors for the first time since March last month, with the closures enforced as part of the government’s plan to curb the spread of the virus. According to the report, 40% of secondary-level respondents said their school did not actively use digital learning platforms prior to the lockdown; a figure that rises to 54% among primary teachers.
On top of this, 88% of those surveyed agreed that COVID-19 and the resulting school closures has accelerated the adoption of hybrid learning – meaning pupils take part in a mix of both home and classroom learning – while 74% said they felt that digital learning platforms will be ‘critical’ to primary and secondary education post-pandemic.
Chris Rothwell, director of education at Microsoft UK, commented: “It’s critical that schools, students, teachers and IT departments have access to the software, tools, training and practical guidance that will allow them to achieve their full potential in the classroom. Key to this is understanding educators’ needs and working with them to identify solutions that can aid their work with students both academically and pastorally.”
With Department for Education (DfE) data showing that one in eight pupils did not return to campus once schools were able to reopen, the move to online learning could be here to stay long-term. A further study by the school leaders’ union NAHT supports this, suggesting that solely digital or blended learning could be here for the foreseeable future, with 94% of schools claiming they have pupils who have been urged to stay home and isolate following suspected or confirmed cases of coronavirus.
Among the challenges teachers listed surrounding hybrid learning in the YouGov/Microsoft survey were:
- Ensuring adequate and fair access to technology and data for all students (71%)
- The provision of adequate support for SEND or vulnerable students (67%)
- Lack of face-to-face contact and interaction (65%)
- Student welfare, social and emotional development (53%)
- The ability to teach effectively (51%)
- Safeguarding (50%)
- Excessive student screen time (50%)
On a more positive note, the rapid implementation of learning technology has understandably boosted teachers’ confidence in the use of such devices and solutions, with 69% of respondents saying they now feel equipped with the right skills, compared to 30% who said the opposite.
“It’s critical that schools, students, teachers and IT departments have access to the software, tools, training and practical guidance that will allow them to achieve their full potential in the classroom” – Chris Rothwell, Microsoft
However, in terms of technology provision, more than a third (37%) of respondents claimed they felt under-equipped with the right technology, with 46% of primary teachers citing a lack of suitable devices. This trend is more evident in Scotland and the North of England than in the South.
The report also revealed notable disparities in terms of teacher training, with almost half (47%) of participants saying they felt inadequately supported in terms of coaching for the upcoming year, compared to 51% who say the opposite. Discrepancy is also evident when it comes to teachers’ age, with 52% of those over 55 feeling they don’t have access to enough training, compared to 38% of those aged 25 to 34.
In terms of leadership support, however, the majority felt this was more than sufficient, with 67% of those surveyed saying guidance from supervisors led to the the successful implementation of hybrid learning strategies.
On this note, Paul Edge, deputy headteacher at Ribblesdale High School in Lancashire, told YouGov and Microsoft: “At Ribblesdale, technology is something that does not exist alongside teaching and learning but with teaching and learning. It is integral to it. Leadership, IT and teachers came together early on in our hybrid learning journey to identify a set of solutions to support the technology and pedagogy impact, and act as a solution to empower and enhance the wellbeing of students and teachers.”