Amid Remote Learning Experiment, Majority of Teachers Say Their Students Are Generally Behind

February 22, 2021
R&WS Research Team
Education | Lifestyle and Society | Young People | Youth

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Our research finds that a majority of teachers (56%) in England & Wales think their current students are academically behind where they should be at this point in the year in terms of their academic development. Nonetheless, a very significant 31% of teachers thinks that students generally are where they should be academically, and 14% even say that their students are ahead of where they would be during a normal school year with no lockdowns or remote learning.

Teachers at academies (63%) and non-selective state schools (60%) were far more likely than teachers at independent schools (44%) to say that their students are generally behind where they should be by this point in the academic year, highlighting the unequal impact of coronavirus on the education of pupils depending on the type of school they attend.

Among teachers who say their students are behind where they should be, 23% say they are significantly behind, 46% moderately behind, and 30% somewhat behind, suggesting that the more severe outcomes are concentrated among a small number of students and schools, whereas at others the problem is not as drastic. Indeed, if we consider the overall sample, the proportion of teachers who think their students are academically significantly behind where they should be stands at 13%.

Parents, when asked about their own children, are less pessimistic. 40% say their child (or children) is (or are) behind where students in their year usually have been in their academic development in the past. This 40% must be viewed as considerable in light of the possibility that parents may tend to view their children more favourably than teachers may respectively view their students.

Among parents who consider their child or children to be behind, 16% view their child as significantly behind.

A slim majority (52%) of teachers think that students would generally be better off if they repeated this school year, with the remaining 48% disagreeing. Interestingly, teachers at independent schools were the most likely (64%) to be in agreement to this proposition.

Meanwhile, 47% of parents said their child or children would be better if they repeated this school year.

Our polling also finds that 45% of teachers think that, once schools are reopened, it would be best for students to not try to make up for the lost time this year. Alternatively, 25% would support making up for lost time through a shorter summer holiday, 16% would support doing so with longer school days, and 14% would be in favour of school on Saturdays. Meanwhile, 37% of parents say it would be best not to attempt to make up for lost time. An equally popular option for parents (also 37%) appears to be shortening the summer holiday––the least popular option for teachers.

The even split among parents and teachers on whether students would be better off repeating the year or whether it would be best somehow for students to make up for the lost time shows the unprecedented nature of the crisis, which has left many teachers and parents uncertain of how to proceed.

Amid the challenges of online teaching, not all teachers and parents view it as absolute failure. On a scale of 0 to 5 where 0 is a complete failure and 5 is a complete success, a plurality of teachers (35%) rank their experience teaching online as a 3, with a further 19% ranking it as a 4 or 5, meaning successful. 24% of parents rank their child or children’s remote learning experience as a 4 or 5. However, 47% of teachers do consider their experience teaching remotely to have largely been a failure (i.e. a rank as either 0, 1, or 2), as do 39% of parents when regarding their children’s remote learning experience, which is extremely concerning.

Among those engaged in live classes, 44% of teachers and 41% of parents view the engagement of their pupils or their children as worse than in-person classes. Small minorities (14% of teachers and 17% of parents) consider engagement to be better.

Overall, 75% of teachers say that their students generally have access to all the necessary resources for completing their schoolwork online (computer, internet access, etc). Yet, a very significant minority of 25% of teachers say that most of their students do not have access to these necessary resources. In this case, teachers at academies (31%) and non-selective state schools (29%) were again more likely than teachers at independent schools to say that their students do not have access to the necessary resources.

Similarly, for parents, 88% report that their children have access to the necessary resources to engage in remote learning.

As for teachers themselves, 84% say they have the necessary resources to teach remotely online.

Interestingly, teachers at independent schools were the most likely to say they do not have the necessary resources to teach online.

Half of teachers (53%) who teach or have taught remotely report using a computer provided by the school, while nearly a third (28%) report using their personal computer to conduct remote teaching.

There are some advantages to remote learning. Two thirds of teachers said, yes, they have assigned to their students’ material freely available on the internet that they ordinarily would not have assigned before the pandemic.

In fact, 57% of teachers do think that some of their students might be better suited to remote learning after the pandemic, as do 35% of parents when looking at their own child or children.

Overall, despite the many challenges of recent months, teachers are optimistic: our research finds that 61% of teachers feel optimistic about the future of their students, and only 11% feel pessimistic. Although the past year has been extremely challenging for teachers, a significant proportion seems satisfied that they have been able to teach remotely somewhat successfully, and that most students will eventually get back on track. The main concern, of course, remains the small but significant minority whose education provision—and potentially life opportunities going forwards—has suffered disproportionately.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Follow us on Twitter

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