Lockdown Learning Depended on Teachers’ Resources and Resourcefulness

The Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, Scotland’s specialist union for secondary teachers, recently carried out a survey of its members to establish the extent to which they felt employers had ensured they had the right ICT tools for the job both during and since lockdown.  Over 1900 secondary teachers from all over Scotland responded.

The pandemic has brought the use of educational ICT into sharp focus.  Teachers have been relying on ICT to maintain contact with colleagues and learners in a safe and secure way which allows learning to continue in a virtual environment.  It was essential during lockdown.  It continues to be essential for teachers and learners who are required to self-isolate.

As well as for facilitating school meetings, teachers have been using ICT for a range of other purposes including:

  • Google classroom,
  • Microsoft Teams,
  • access to GLOW (Scotland’s digital learning platform),
  • creatively developing learning resources,
  • management tasks (eg providing SQA exam data, timetabling, SEEMIS),
  • tracking and responding to student work,
  • mandatory SQA training,
  • professional learning (eg webinars, online training),
  • contacting learners’ families (email, telephone),
  • looked-after children’s reviews and social work meetings,
  • college and university applications,
  • maintaining communication with families through school websites and social media.

Although education would have ground to a halt without ICT during lockdown, remarkably less than half of teachers were provided with any kind of hardware during lockdown.  Some equipment provided was inadequate.   The vast majority of respondents (90%) reported having to use their own hardware, such as laptops/PCs/phones/printers to maintain continuity of education.  Over 56% dipped into their own pockets to purchase essential items such as webcams, printer consumables, office equipment, new laptops and upgrades.  Teachers covered the cost of telephone and broadband connections themselves.  In many cases teachers spent £100 or more, with some reporting having had to spend many hundreds of pounds on new equipment.  Fewer than 1% of respondents have had any of their additional costs reimbursed.

The survey revealed that teachers need home access to good quality ICT such as PCs, laptops and tablets which allow them to connect to school networks.  Unfortunately most local authorities were simply not ready for the challenges of lockdown.  Around two-thirds of respondents agreed that equipment should be provided by their employer, although about a third expressed a willingness to pay for it themselves if it could be purchased with assistance, eg at ‘cost’ through the local authority.

Euan Duncan, SSTA Assistant General Secretary said,

“Expecting teachers to provide, from their own pockets, resources which are essential for high quality learning and teaching to take place is simply unacceptable. Although there is evidence of some improvement since schools reopened, even now we are finding situations where employers are asking teachers to use their own devices to contact families.”

James Cowans, SSTA Education Committee Convener said,

“Teachers rose to the challenge of online teaching rapidly generally using their own resources and resourcefulness, but it remains that time needs to be set aside for teachers to develop their pedagogical skills further in relation to the use of ICT.  With the uncertainty still surrounding the spread of the virus, and with National 5 exams cancelled, employers must review teachers’ ICT provision and training as a matter of urgency.  Local authorities must refresh their ICT strategy thereby ensuring that young people are not disadvantaged by teachers’ lack of access to well-connected ICT.”

A variety of respondents commented:

  • It was simply presumed that teachers would have access to devices to enable them to do their duties.
  • The item was very old and dated in its specification and was often more of a hindrance than a help.
  • I couldn't access many of the usual facilities and systems which I have in school. We were all guessing how teams works, for example, which added enormously to stress levels.
  • It really was a nightmare to upload work or attachments using my iPad. So painfully slow and frustrating. If blended learning is to be a thing moving forward, my employer seriously needs to up their game in terms of ICT. The ICT situation at school is bad enough, never mind the provision for home working.
  • Pupil Support/Guidance needs mobile phones to engage with parents/carers. Using our own mobiles because the “school can’t afford to issue staff mobiles” is unacceptable.
  • It was taken for granted I could use my free minutes and internet to get work done. I pay for those contracts and effectively I am paying to work as those are not paid for by my employer.
  • My employer refreshed all our hardware to laptops before lockdown so it was easy to access and could be used at home.
  • This is an equity issue for both staff and pupils across Scotland. Colleagues in other areas provided Chromebooks etc by their schools and likewise some state schools provide iPads/similar to all pupils. In a household with 2 adults employed as teachers and 2 High School aged children our own resources very stretched despite being relatively well provided for. WiFi issues notwithstanding provision of laptops to all teaching staff would have helped to ease this.
  • I’m expected to buy/have my own hardware but I’m really struggling financially.
  • We were reluctantly loaned laptops- which had small screens and no mouse – not particularly useful for excel sheets needed to make up our rank order for SQA certification process.
  • There is currently no budget for printing or photocopying in my school. I do ALL printing and photocopying at home which is paid out of my family budget.
  • We were given nothing at all. The school didn’t have any laptops to give out. There was no warning and we didn’t know if school was closed/working from home/what the pupils had to do. ..... we are still in the same situation now where there is no help when it happens again.

SSTA Education Committee

11 November 2020