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Has training dropped off the strategic map?

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The demand for edtech has soared in the last couple of years. The majority of educators believe that technology is now integral to everyday life, as well as a key part of school strategy. Today, there’s no shortage of hardware, software, devices and accessories to make learning more exciting and teaching more fun.

And yet enthusiasm for progress seems to be waning, as training is no longer considered a top strategic priority. In an age where teachers are struggling to contend with stressful workloads and exam pressures, the need for edtech training remains as critical as ever. But carving out time for what is often perceived as a non-essential, means training is taking a back seat.

Clashing priorities and perceptions

This year’s The State of Technology in Education found that training has dropped down the priority list for teachers. Double the number of SLTs versus teachers (21.7% versus 10.2%) said that training was a key priority, compared to 20% of IT managers.

These figures make sense when you consider that teachers are grappling with numerous day-to-day tasks, from assembly preparation and lesson planning to meeting parents, after-school clubs, ongoing marking, while staying up to date with the latest assessment best practices. SLTs and IT managers, on the other hand, are just as busy, but more likely to take a high-level, long-term view of training as a necessity.

While discrepancies between teachers and SLTs also apply to whether training should be a funding priority (61.3% versus 29.7%), many of our respondents – particularly teachers – agree that more needs to be spent.

Overall, around 30% of all staff agree that there are not enough funds currently going towards training.

In some cases, though, schools are spending a significant amount of time and money on training, but the return on investment isn’t always clear. There is a perception that the money being spent is not making enough of a difference.

Access is too narrow

Although the majority of school staff agree on the importance of training, in 2019 just 16.5% of teachers said they received enough support, compared to 55% in 2016. Meanwhile, just 6.5% say they get full training and support. The decline is remarkable.

Some teachers feel that their SLTs are too focused on training pupils to pass exams rather than engaging them in a love for learning. They feel teachers should be encouraged and supported a teacher-led approach to training in order to improve the education experience.

A luxury rather than a necessity

Why aren’t more teachers getting the training and support they need? The State of Technology suggests that tight budgets and too little time are the main culprits.

We also noticed a conflict in how people responded to the topic itself. While most teachers agree training is desirable and necessary, it is also seen as yet another burden to try and fit into an already-full schedule. They are not necessarily given extra time for it, which explains why it has dropped off the radar so drastically.

Redressing the balance

There is a contradiction at play in the training debate. While there is a widespread desire for more opportunities to learn and improve, teachers also feel that there is too much training. Over-stretched staff simply do not have enough time to learn and implement new skills effectively.

Nonetheless, training and development remain one of the best ways to improve staff retention. By prioritising professional development, schools can reduce turnover as well as save time and energy on recruitment. It would be foolish to let training fall further off the map. Senior leaders and IT managers have some work to do to convince teachers otherwise, and create more time for them to benefit from it.

For more insight into the views of classroom teachers and educational leaders, explore The State of Technology in Education 2019/20.

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