Education in times of crisis: Teachers’ views on distance learning and school reopening plans during COVID-19”

This new report from the Chartered College of Teaching investigates teachers’ views on the impact of partial school closures on learning, wellbeing, school reopening plans and potential long-term implications for education. Key areas of discussion included:
• Views on distance learning
• How has the crisis affected student learning?
• What has the impact of COVID-19 been on teacher and student wellbeing?
• How have vulnerable students been affected and what is the best way to support
• What are teachers’ views on school reopening plans?
• Has the COVID-19 crisis influenced teachers’ views on education and the teaching profession?


The findings are an important element of our #FutureOfTeaching campaign, with many of the issues and suggestions explored in greater detail on our new global site – The Education Exchange. Check out more of the findings below:

Distance learning

The majority feel confident in planning and delivering online learning. However, a significant minority may require additional training as suggested by the finding that 20 per cent do not feel adequately supported to provide online education. Most teachers in this survey report that they continue to feel connected to their students. However, 20 per cent of teachers are not able to reach their students on a regular basis. Nearly all teachers are worried about at least some of their students and their access to online learning, confirming previous concerns about a digital gap affecting students’ learning during this crisis. Another issue that emerged in this study is that some teachers also lack access to adequate digital devices or the internet.

The crisis also seems to have had some positive effects on learning, as teachers report that some of their students have become more proactive in their learning, developed new skills – including increased IT literacy – and engaged in new forms of learning. It seems important that schools recognise and celebrate a wide range of learning that students have engaged in during the lockdown period. However, while some have access to online learning and the support and resources to develop new skills, others do not, and this will need to be considered when schools open to more students.

Most teachers reported concern over the wellbeing of at least some of their students, and one-third think that the wellbeing of most or all of their students has been negatively affected. Students with special educational needs are one of the groups teachers in this survey were particularly worried about as some may have been particularly affected by the disruption to their usual routines.

Teacher wellbeing

The wellbeing of some teachers has clearly been affected negatively by this crisis. Workload has increased for about half of responding teachers and while some report that they can juggle family and work commitments better now than before the start of the lockdown, this is not the case for the majority. The additional workload from supporting distance learning, additional pressures resulting from schools expanding their role as ‘nodes of support’ for their communities, the negative press, a lack of a ‘staffroom culture’, challenges with technologies and anxieties about the future are mentioned as drivers for this negative impact on wellbeing. The importance of peer
and school support is further highlighted.

School reopening plans

Student and teacher safety is paramount and it will be important to monitor the development of COVID-19 to ensure that schools are indeed safe to return to in September. Respondents have made it clear that schools’ individual contexts need to be taken into account when planning the reopening of schools to more students. It remains unclear how the safety of students and teachers will be assured on public transport during rush hour if they are expected to attend school during normal school hours or how staggered start and end times can best be managed. One of the main concerns teachers have raised around schools reopening to more students is staff and student safety. Respondents suggested that additional funding will be required to cover the costs for any additional staff cover due to staff absences because of health concerns. Children with SEND might be particularly affected by the disruption of routines and require closer contact with teachers for personal hygiene or feeding, which will require a different, possibly more gradual approach to reopening.

Respondents had concerns about a narrowing of the curriculum as a result of this crisis and a sole focus on ‘catching-up’.

Teachers repeatedly highlighted the need for additional funding to support students’ learning and wellbeing upon a return to school and to create a safe school environment. The inclusion of additional training and guidance is also important as training in supporting students’ wellbeing, particularly those students who have experienced trauma or bereavement, was the single-most requested training in our study. Delaying formal Ofsted inspections seems crucial in light of the fact that many schools and students will need time to settle back into school routines. It is also critical that even the informal visits suggested by Ofsted are indeed the constructive and supportive meetings that they describe so school leaders and teachers are not put under additional pressure. Finally, the consultation process for amendments to GCSE and A-Level exams will provide an important opportunity for the sector to share their views and ensure that those amended exams take students’ different learning experiences during this crisis into account, which is also what respondents to this survey largely called for.

The future of education and the profession

The responses to our survey reflect a wide range of thoughts and opinions on what can be learnt from this crisis, what has been missed during these months and what has been gained. Teachers continue to advocate passionately for their students and are committed not only to supporting their students throughout this crisis and as they reintegrate back into school life, but also in the years that follow. Teachers expressed the importance of placing wellbeing at the heart of educational policy, cultivating independence and resilience so that students are prepared for future challenges and crises, and ensuring that wider inequalities are challenged. In looking to the future and how we can meet these ambitious aims, we ask:
• What is and should be the purpose of education and schools and what role do
they play in our communities?
• How can different stakeholders such as teachers and parents collaborate to
support student learning and wellbeing?
• What are the existing inequalities in education and what are the first steps we can
take to overcome them?
• What have learnt about the role of digital technologies for student learning and
how can this inform future approaches to teaching and learning?
• How can we ensure that children develop deep subject-knowledge?
• How can resilience, independence and wellbeing best be cultivated alongside
academic progress and an enriching curriculum?
• What does effective professional learning need to look like to ensure that
teachers and school leaders are prepared for the challenges of the 21st century?
• How can we ensure that the lessons we have learnt from this crisis are shared
more widely?