Teachers warn of tech challenges as hybrid learning becomes the norm

Nearly three-quarters of primary and secondary school teachers surveyed online in the UK predict that pupils will still need to use digital tools to learn from home despite schools re-opening last month.

An online survey from Microsoft and YouGov found that 88% of teachers surveyed believe the pandemic has accelerated “hybrid learning” – where youngsters learn at home and in the classroom – and 74% believe online and digital learning platforms are critical to primary and secondary education moving forward.

Teachers also raised concerns over access to skills, technology and supporting student welfare. The study found there is a need for leadership, IT departments and teachers to come together to identify a clear approach that brings technology and learning together.

Chris Rothwell, Director of Education at Microsoft UK, said: “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 the solutions that can aid their work with students both academically and pastorally.”

All schools fully reopened last month for the first time since the Government introduced measures in March to combat the spread of Coronavirus. According to the Microsoft/YouGov survey, 40% of teachers surveyed said the school they work for didn’t use online or digital learning platforms before lockdown, rising to 54% of primary school teachers.

A middle school boy loading up his backpack in his bedroom with a Lenovo 300e 2nd Generation 2-in-1 opened in laptop mode displaying a PowerPoint file. Remote Learning collection.

Department for Education figures show that one in eight pupils had not returned to school

There has since been a huge shift towards helping children learn at home, via the internet. This looks set to continue for some, with Department for Education figures revealing that one in eight pupils had not returned to school. A separate study by school leaders’ union NAHT found that 94% of schools have pupils who have had to stay at home due to suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19 this term.

According to the Microsoft/YouGov survey, teachers now feel more prepared, with 69% of educators feeling confident that they can access the right skills. Just 30% reported the opposite.

Andy Perryer, Digital Learning Adviser at Cognita Schools, which contains a diverse set of schools spanning 10 countries, said: “As a result of the pandemic, we’ve been able to ‘fast-forward’ the embedding of tools and technologies in our schools that are benefitting teachers and students alike.

“Platforms such as Microsoft Teams play a core part in our strategy because they can make our teachers’ lives easier and enrich learning for our students. Time-saving opportunities via automated tasks can reduce administration for teachers and enable them to focus on the core of what they do – teaching. As a global schools group, we now find peer-to-peer collaboration and sharing of best practice much easier, which helps us to keep innovating the education we provide.”

However, the Microsoft/YouGov study also highlighted teachers’ concerns about the potential challenges of hybrid learning.

These concerns included:

  • Ensuring adequate and fair access for students to technology and data (71%)
  • Providing adequate support for students with special educational needs and disabilities and vulnerable students (67%)
  • Lack of face-to-face time (65%)
  • Student welfare, social and emotional development (53%)
  • Ability to teach effectively (51%)
  • Safeguarding (50%)
  • Student screen time (50%)
A mother and her daugther reading a webpage with Immersive Reader in Microsoft Edge. The Acer Travelmate B311 2-in-1 is in tablet mode

There has since been a huge shift towards helping children learn at home, via the internet

Of the 1,020 teachers surveyed by Microsoft and YouGov, more than a third (37%) said they felt underequipped with the right technology, with 46% of primary school teachers reporting a lack of suitable equipment. This is more apparent in Scotland and the north of England than the South.

In terms of training, UK schools are split, with 47% of teachers feeling they cannot access enough training to support the coming academic year, compared with 51% who feel they can. There is also an age divide, with 52% of teachers over 55 feeling they can’t access enough training, dropping to 38% of teachers aged 25 to 34.

Central to the successful implementation of hybrid learning models is leadership support, which the majority (67%) of UK teachers surveyed feel they have.

Paul Edge, Deputy Headteacher at Ribblesdale High School, in Clitheroe, Lancashire, said: “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.”

Click here to download the full Microsoft/YouGov report.

Note: All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1020 UK Primary and Secondary Teachers online. Fieldwork was undertaken between 17th – 22nd July 2020.  The survey was carried out online.