Teachers paying out of own pocket for essential ICT

Many teachers not given hardware during lockdown and vast majority used their own phones and computers, survey finds
11th November 2020, 1:28pm


Teachers paying out of own pocket for essential ICT

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Less than half of teachers were provided with any kind of ICT hardware during the coronavirus lockdown, according to a survey of 1,900 secondary teachers.

Some 90 per of respondents reported having to use their own hardware - including phones, laptops or printers - to ensure minimal disruption to education.

Around 56 per cent of those who took part in the survey by the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (SSTA) dipped into their own pockets to purchase essential items such as webcams, laptops and software upgrades. Teachers also routinely covered the cost of phone and broadband connections.

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In many cases, teachers spent £100 or more, with some spending many hundreds of pounds on new equipment. Fewer than 1 per cent of respondents have had any of their additional costs reimbursed.

The union concludes: "Unfortunately, most local authorities were simply not ready for the challenges of lockdown."

Euan Duncan, assistant general secretary of the SSTA, 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, the SSTA's 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."

Comments gathered in the survey include:

  • "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 [Microsoft] 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 that 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."
  • "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 the 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."

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