Schools ‘failing students’ on digital

Written by Julian Blake, Editor at DigitalAgenda

As thousands gather in London this week for the world’s biggest education technology event, new research from Microsoft UK shows that most teachers believe the education system is failing to make the most of tech – and that analogue equipment makes classrooms unfit for purpose.

Children in Bett ArenaAs 35,000 guests from 131 countries gather in London for BETT, the world’s leading edtech event, Microsoft UK reports sobering opinions from teachers here that raise serious questions about shortcomings in the education system and the school infrastructure they work within to make the most of digital innovation.

Microsoft UK commissioned YouGov in November to test UK primary and secondary teacher opinion – and teachers concluded that the UK education system is failing to prepare students for the future. Most (77%) said they were unable to do their best work because of time and resource constraints, while two in three (67%) said they are forced to ‘get through the day’ instead of thinking creatively about individual student needs.

Teachers reported that they are largely working in classrooms that are not fit for purpose – with over half (52%) still mostly using analogue equipment and 54% of students lacking access to devices. That is despite teachers being clear on how technology can support student learning (74%), create a more inclusive learning environment (53%) and positively impact student-teacher collaboration (49%).

Teachers also believe that they are ill-equipped to make the most of school technology investments – with just 15% feeling confident about using technology and only a third (33%) receiving hands-on training. This, coupled with time-poor schedules and disparity in teaching priorities, is holding educators back from making the most of the tools at their disposal and preparing students for the future.

Teacher survey – key findings

  • 44% of teachers don’t believe today’s classrooms are set up to facilitate modern learning
  • 77% feel unable to do their best work due to time and resource constraints
  • while 74% agree technology aids students’ learning, just 15% feel confident using it
  • only 42% say their school is primarily focused on instilling the skills students need for success in the world of work.

The survey also finds that despite forecasts from the World Economic Forum that workers will need to be ‘agile lifelong learners’ in the workplace, UK teachers believe that students are not being set up for success. Fewer than half (42%) of teachers surveyed said that schools are instilling students with the skills students will need in the world of work.

Paul Watkins, head of the digital learning development department at the Ysgol Bae Baglan school in Port Talbot, said: “The biggest challenge in teaching today is finding the balance between work and personal life whilst simultaneously helping students achieve more. For us, the benefits of technology speak for themselves – giving teachers back time and enabling more engaging and inclusive lessons. The key is knowing what you want to achieve and empowering students with the skills, knowledge and ability to succeed in the working world.”

Microsoft UK director of education Chris Rothwell said: “Within a rapidly changing world, the next generation must be prepared with the confidence, skills and lifelong learning mindset needed to succeed. Teachers have a key role to play in instilling this. Our research shows that teachers, as always, are eager to go above and beyond to nurture future-ready skills and innovate in the classroom.

“What’s important is that they have the support that they need to help them get here: access to great learning environments, opportunities for strong professional development and the chance to work in evolving, transformational environments that support our future leaders.”

Microsoft urges schools “to equip teachers with the confidence, tools, knowledge and environment to deliver the education students need to succeed in the future”, including with its own education products, including Cloud for Education and Surface for Education. It also offers support to teachers through a Microsoft Educator Community.


  • Putting in place a leader to drive a future-focused strategy that integrates and embeds future-ready skills into the curriculum
  • Integrating technology and digital skills into the curriculum to increase collaboration, peer-to-peer sharing and grow digital skills in young people through certifications and digital skills programmes
  • Creating and encouraging professional learning communities to inspire and support colleagues as they embrace technology and grow their own digital skills through professional development programmes
  • Learning more about cloud-based technology and easy-to-manage devices to stay modern in the classroom.
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