Edinburgh schools: IT problems mean pupils' lessons delayed while waiting for teachers' laptops to load

Slow computers see Edinburgh teachers going to work an hour early

Pupils are being held back because of problems with technology in Edinburgh schools, teachers’ leaders have warned. A deputation from the EIS, Scotland’s biggest teachers’ union, told the city council’s education committee that it was routinely taking teachers 20 minutes to log onto their laptops, often they could not run more than one app at a time, there were problems opening certain apps and long delays and crashes with others.

It meant many teachers were going into school an hour early just to make sure they were logged on for the start of class and also having to prepare back-up lessons in case the IT failed. Planned lessons were being scrapped at the last minute and children were sitting in classrooms waiting for the teacher’s technology to work.

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Edinburgh EIS secretary Alison Murphy said: “The situation is intolerable. We cannot improve learning and teaching if we don’t have the basic tools to do the job. This cannot go on. Students are at breaking point, staff are at breaking point. It has already led to people being off sick.”

Council officials told the committee the problem had been resolved, but afterwards Ms Murphy pointed out a survey conducted after the supposed fix and submitted by the deputation showed teachers saying there had been no significant improvement. “It hasn’t been fixed,” she said.

Ms Murphy said the EIS members had been expressing increasing concern over IT for several months. A survey in September found 86 per cent unsatisfied with provision of IT in their school, 75 per cent had gone into work early to ensure their laptops were working in time for the teaching day and 75 per cent said their computer could not handle more than one app open at a time.

She said initial efforts to resolve the problems had not worked and teachers were promised further measures over the October holiday would improve the situation.

Nicola Harvey, the council’s director of customer and digital strategy, told the committee the unions had been informed on November 4 that the issues were now resolved. She said anti-virus software had been eating into the capacity on devices and slowing them down and that problem was now fixed, though some schools still had “ad hoc issues” and officials continued to monitor the situation. “We are asking more of IT than we ever have,” she said. But she insisted: "The issues with devices have been fixed.”

Pupils are having to sit waiting for their teacher's laptop to load so the lesson can begin, according to the EIS.

However, Ms Murphy said after the meeting that a second survey conducted on November 7 – whose results were part of the deputation’s written submission to the committee –found almost 90 per cent of EIS reps had not seen an improvement in their school.

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“The majority of teachers in our schools still find that they cannot log on quicky, work effectively with browsers or use more than one app at a time. And still, our teachers are coming into work early on account of slow, underperforming IT. It’s affecting pupils because lessons teachers want to deliver are often not working, teachers are spending time trying to fix IT and so can’t plan properly and because it’s now causing teachers to go off sick with stress.”