Pupils not engaging with online learning, say teachers

Very few low-attaining pupils are thriving with online learning, according to teachers in a survey

Emma Seith

Coronavirus: Teachers need training in how to deliver lessons online, says Sutton Trust

Only 25 teachers have said their low-attaining students are engaging well with online learning in a survey of over 700 mainly Scottish school staff.

The research, carried out by the University of Glasgow, also found that a significant proportion of teachers reported that their high-attaining students were not engaging well.

Of the 704 teachers who took part in the survey – 80 per cent of whom were based in Scotland – 206 reported their high attaining pupils were not engaging well, or 29 per cent.


Background: 'Part-time school impact will be greater than lockdown'

Related: Encourage vulnerable pupils to attend hubs, say MSPs

Research: Covid-19 may cost a decade’s progress on attainment gap

More findings: ‘Schools not ready for pupils’ emotional needs'


Around a third of the teachers (30 per cent) also said they did not know how to follow up non-attendance and non-engagement during online learning, and 36 per cent said they were unsure how to apply behavioural expectations during online learning.

The survey findings have huge implications given the Scottish government’s flagship policy to close the attainment gap – and given the plans to continue with online learning next year, with pupils expected to spend half their time in school, and half their time learning online at home.

Research in England has found that the coronavirus pandemic may cost a decade’s progress on the attainment gap. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has predicted that in a worst-case scenario, the gap could widen by 75 per cent between March and September, compared with its current size.

EIS union general secretary Larry Flanagan warned last month that the long-term impact of part-time school would be greater than lockdown. An EIS survey of school staff also found that the biggest barrier to delivering home learning was low pupil participation, with more than 60 per cent of the 20,000-plus school staff surveyed reporting this.

Other findings from the University of Glasgow survey included that when schools reopened they would not be ready to cope with pupils’ emotional needs.

Only 38 per cent of teachers said pupil support would be up to the task when schools reopened – but most teachers were concerned about the impact of lockdown on mental health, with over 90 per cent believing pupils would need more pastoral support than before.

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Emma Seith

Emma Seith

Emma Seith is a reporter for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Emma_Seith

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