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How are teachers coping with lockdown?

6 April 2020

A second full week of lockdown complete and the 40% of you due to have a usual Easter holiday have made it to the finish line. Well done! The rest of you are still sharing childcare responsibilities for key workers’ children and/or attempting to continue with distance-learning efforts. There’s also the small matter of trying to rank every GCSE and A-level student so they can be given a grade without an exam!

With so much going on, how are you finding it?

1. Hitting the bottle?

Coping mechanisms are important in a helping profession like teaching. Back in January, we asked about your favoured ways to deal with a difficult day. At the time, 34% said alcohol was something you’d turn to. On 20th March we asked again, and that day it was up to 47%.

Since then, have teachers taken to drinking more? 37% of you said yes, since the lockdown, you were now drinking more, and 11% admitted to drinking a lot more. Just 11% were drinking less overall.

Numbers are similar across all groups of teachers, but senior leaders and headteachers seem to have increased their alcohol use the most. We typically find this group to be slightly more resilient than middle leaders – for example, though they usually work longer hours they also report higher levels of morale and commitment to the job, and lower levels of negative stress indicators.

The amount of pressures loaded onto senior leaders in the past few weeks – not least the need to create, within 2 days, a virtual school, a childcare centre, and a catering supply chain for low-income families – have been substantial. Education has many, many competing priorities in the coming months. But the well-being of school leaders will need to be one of them and it’s one which can easily be overlooked if politicians are not careful. After all, who is responsible for resolving it?

2. A Lost Cohort

A teacher flagged that their school was no longer teaching Year 11 and 13 now that their exams had been cancelled. She wanted to know how common this is?

29% of secondary teachers said their school was no longer teaching Year 11, while a further 31% said teaching was reduced. Among schools with Year 13 a similar ratio is playing out.

Students will move on to their next step in education and without teaching in the meantime they are very likely to fall behind on their learning. Of course, it’s incredibly difficult to motivate a bunch of teenagers to continue with structured courses which they know won’t end in an exam. The government has said there will be a chance for a resit in the next academic year, but it’s not clear when.

Note, however, the much higher rate of private schools continuing to teach Year 11 and 13. There are likely two reasons for this. First, most are still charging fees and need to justify the cost. Second, these schools may do alternative qualifications such as the International Baccalaureate (IB) or iGCSEs. The IB exams are cancelled but coursework is still to be submitted and will be marked. iGCSEs are now cancelled but that was announced much later than GCSEs and the awarding organisation is saying the exams will still go ahead “as soon as possible” once restrictions are lifted, which gives additional incentives to keep teaching.

This discrepancy does, however, line up a bigger than usual gap between children in the state and private sector in terms of their teaching time – something the government will need to keep an eye on in the long-term.

Across the state sector, inequality gaps are less pronounced, with schools in the most deprived areas less likely to have reduced teaching for Year 11. (For Year 13, the lower percentages for FSM4/5 schools simply reflect the fact that fewer of them have Year 13 classes).

3. Who is IN school?

While the majority of teachers last week were either distance learning or working from, we wondered who was going into school to run the childcare hubs.

As you can see below, special and primary teachers are doing much more of the on-site childcare work – with around 20% of special and 17% of primary teachers going into school on a given day, compared to just 6% of secondary teachers. Note that many more special/AP schools are completely closed.

As mentioned above, senior leaders and headteachers are doing a lot of the work – with around 40% of headteachers in their school on any given day. Because secondary school teachers are more often at home, and because we know so few are streaming live lessons, the theme of classroom teachers feeling they are working shorter hours continued again this week, while leaders feel their hours are now even more stretched.

4. What do teachers need right now?

Lots of businesses and charities are desperate to help schools get through the crisis – but what should they do? Three weeks ago, schools wanted free online resources. Since then, teachers have been deluged! So what do you need in this next phase?

Two things seem most desired: broadband for every child and online national curriculum resources. The Welsh Government has created (pronounced ‘hub’) – a central depository of shared resources to be used for online lessons. Could there be something similar in England? It certainly seems teachers would appreciate it.

The broadband point is particularly pressing in schools in deprived areas and, above and beyond that, stronger in the north-east region. But every teacher group felt this was the order of priorities.

Will the government manage to put enough pressure on providers to ensure that all children can access broadband as this crisis continues and families find their data drying up, or that they can’t pay bills? Let’s hope so.

5. We know you really love the daily reads, so here’s last week’s tips…