This blog was written by Hannie Kirkham, Research and Business Development Manager at Oriel Square and was originally posted on the Oriel Square website on 27 March 2020.

As the UK’s Covid-19 crisis has escalated over the past fortnight, Teacher Tapp has been uniquely placed to find out what teachers are really thinking about. As we navigate through so many uncertainties, they are attempting to keep teachers informed and connected. The Teacher Tapp app collects opinions from thousands of teachers, asking three simple multiple-choice questions at the end of each day, and now they have shared all that data to help inform policies, parents and teachers. It’s fascinating stuff, and below is a brief summary of some of the findings so far.

Only a couple of weeks ago, I met with Laura McInerney from Teacher Tapp. She was speaking at the inaugural DiscussEd event, an effort by Edapt to connect education professionals in the North. Laura gave an introduction to her work at Teacher Tapp, reeling off many fascinating statistics about teachers, teaching and schools.

Two weeks on, that talk would be very different. Indeed, the Teacher Tapp questions have focused almost entirely on the current school closures since the beginning of March.

“Think of the class you taught last today. Imagine school was suddenly closed for a time. Could YOU SET WORK remotely for that class to do?” 3rd March

“Which of the following anti-Coronavirus measures has your school got in place?” 11th March

“Next week, are you going into a school *in person* on Monday?” 20th March

“Do you have enough toilet roll?” 21st March

What do the data sets say?

Schools have geared up for distance learning – most can set work remotely. Teacher Tapp results show that across primary and secondary schools, both state and privately funded, two-thirds of teachers are now able to set or collect work using online platforms (66%) – and that rises to over 80% for Secondary schools. Only a few weeks before, Teacher Tapp data had only about 20% of primary schools using online learning platforms, so they have moved quickly in preparation.

Very recent stories from our publisher and edtech clients tell of soaring demand for online provision of school and home learning resources, and many are offering free access whilst schools are closed. Schools are taking them up on the offer. Of teachers, about 64% at least somewhat agree that they feel confident using educational technology as a learning resource. That’s important for education publishers and edtech companies, but means that a lot of educators will need extra support over the coming months if they are to use online and digital tools to connect with and ultimately teach students.

It does look like private secondary schools are better prepared for distance learning, with higher proportions of teachers using video conferencing (27%) and online chatting (17%). Although, the figures clearly show that schools, like many workplaces, are trying to keep going through digital connections, many have still sent physical work home for students in preparation for the closures. This was highest by far in Primary schools, where 49% had set take-home physical workbooks or worksheets. We might expect this to change over the coming weeks: with the distance now enforced, it’s easy to imagine teachers relying almost entirely on digital resources.

The Teacher Tapp data also showed that most children have stayed at home during the closures. On Monday 23rd March, the first day of closures, 78% of teachers reported that their school had less than 10% of the student body attending. Of that, 71% of secondary schools had less than 5% in attendance. There is, however, more pressure on special schools, where 11% of teachers reported 20% or higher of their students came in. That’s compared with 1% of primary school teachers and 0% of secondary school teachers.

What about digital accessibility for students?

Whilst we need children to stay at home, it means that, for most, their access to the quality education that schools and teachers provide will be limited. Where last week, Teacher Tapp was looking at the digital provision and accessibility for teachers, the questions this week have pried into that for students. Of teachers in all schools, almost two-thirds (63%) think that more than 95% of their students have adequate access to the internet for learning purposes. This is slightly higher for secondary schools, but again is a larger obstacle for those in special schools. There is still, though, 18% of teachers who think that 1 in 5 students do not currently have adequate internet access.

Interestingly, when asked about access to electronic devices for learning, such as a laptop or tablet, teachers think that access is worse than for the internet. Only just over half of all teachers (55%) think that more than 95% of students have adequate access to a device, where almost a quarter (23%) think that more than one-fifth of their students do not. There could be many reasons for this, including the need to share devices with other family members, or the types of devices that teachers might be considering. For instance, more students may have access to mobile phones and the internet through those, but teachers might consider laptops and tablets better for extended use and work submissions.

Looking further ahead

Looking further ahead, teachers are generally in favour of cancelling exams and using their predictions for student grades. Before the UK Government’s announcement to cancel the exams, more than one-fifth of secondary school teachers wanted exams to continue (21%), and another one-fifth would have liked a delay of one term. Logistically, that would have been difficult to manage, and now the cancellation means that teachers and students have one less pressure. Where GCSE and A level classes would have been entering a revision phase imminently, teachers and students alike might now be wondering what to do with themselves. Perhaps students will give in to the temptation of an extended break, or they might start looking towards the next step in their education or work life a little sooner than originally planned. Teachers may still have their work cut out for them, albeit in a different format, medium and place. Thanks to Teacher Tapp, we at least know that, as of Saturday 21st March, over 80% of teachers do have enough loo roll to last at least a few weeks. Hopefully, that will put many minds at ease.

At Oriel Square, we are supporting BESA’s LendED initiative to help resource schools during the crisis. Get in touch with us to see how we can help you do the same!