Girl in classroom writing in notebook

Youngsters risk leaving school unprepared for workplace, Microsoft research reveals

Students in the UK risk leaving school without the skills they need for the future, new research from Microsoft Surface has revealed.

The study found many classrooms were not fit for purpose, creating pupils who are unprepared for jobs that require knowledge and experience of technology.

Microsoft has called for more support for teachers, including the “confidence, tools, knowledge and environment to deliver the education students need to succeed in the future” and ensure they continued learning throughout their lives.

The company’s survey revealed that most teachers (52%) still used analogue equipment and 54% of students lacked access to devices such as laptops. This risked harming a pupil’s education, with 74% of teachers saying they believe technology can support student learning, create a more inclusive learning environment (53%) and have a positive impact on student-teacher collaboration (49%).

Teacher helping pupils in a science class

49% of teachers said technology can have a positive impact on student-teacher collaboration

Even when technology was available, there were issues with finding staff to use it. Just 15% of the 755 primary and secondary school teachers surveyed by Microsoft felt confident using technology and only 33% had received hands-on training in digital skills.

As a result, less than half (42%) of teachers said schools were giving students the skills they will need when trying to get a job.

Chris Rothwell, Director of Education at Microsoft UK, said: “The role of the teacher has never been more vital than it is today. Within a rapidly changing world, the next generation must be prepared with the confidence, skills and lifelong learning mindset needed to succeed. Teachers have a key role to play in instilling this.

“Our research shows that teachers are eager to go above and beyond to nurture future-ready skills and innovate in the classroom. What’s important is that they have the support they need to help them get access to great learning environments, opportunities for strong professional development and the chance to work in evolving, transformational environments that support our future leaders.

“That’s why Microsoft announced a series of measures earlier this week to help teachers in the classroom, including a new Classroom Pen for the Surface Go and money off Surface devices.”

Despite their best efforts, more than three-quarters (77%) of teaching staff worked under time and resource constraints, with 67% focused on “getting through the day” rather than thinking creatively and innovatively about individual student needs.

Microsoft’s survey was published just a week after Ofsted announced that it would focus more on the quality of teaching rather than just exam results. The move by the education standards body was echoed by the survey, which found that 41% of educational staff said the “ability to retain information” was a key skill currently being prioritised by their school, but just 6% felt it would be important for students in the future.

Instead, teachers felt that building “resilience” (59%) and “problem-solving” (53%) would be crucial, with 66% highlighting technology as critical for broadening student skillsets beyond the curriculum, as it boosted collaboration and digital skills.

To ensure students were well prepared for the world of work, Microsoft has urged schools to adopt four recommendations:

  • Put in place a leader to drive a future-focused strategy that integrates and embeds future-ready skills into the curriculum
  • Integrate technology and digital skills into the curriculum to increase collaboration and peer-to-peer sharing, and grow digital skills in young people through certifications and digital skills programme
  • Create and encourage professional learning communities to inspire and support colleagues as they embrace technology and grow their own digital skills through professional development programmes
  • Learn more about cloud-based technology and easy-to-manage devices to stay modern in the classroom.
School pupils listen to a teacher in a classroom

Just 6% of teachers believed the ability to retain information would be important for students in the future

Ysgol Bae Baglan, in Port Talbot, is a three to 16, all-through, Microsoft Showcase School has embraced technology, as well as a range of educational styles and working environments. Surface laptops and Office 365 are used across the site, while systems are hosted on the Azure cloud platform.

Paul Watkins, Acting Leader of Digital Learning at Ysgol Bae Baglan, said: “The biggest challenge in teaching today is finding the balance between work and personal life whilst simultaneously helping students achieve more.

“For us, the benefits of technology speak for themselves – giving teachers back time and enabling more engaging and inclusive lessons. The key is knowing what you want to achieve and empowering students with the skills, knowledge and ability to succeed in the working world.”