Second-level teacher survey details lockdown-era barriers to education

A new survey of second-level teachers has provided a snapshot of what teaching and learning was like during the period of school closures as a result of COVID-19.

The COVID-19 Teacher Survey, carried out by Trinity College Dublin, found that teachers reported a lack of interest from students, lack of support from home and limited access to devices as the main barriers to teaching during the lockdown.

These issues were particularly prevalent in DEIS contexts.

It found that the lack of personal contact experienced by students and teachers had a major negative impact on teaching and learning when they left the classroom environment.

One fifth of teachers surveyed said they did not foster collaboration among students during lockdown. And more than half of teachers reported a decrease in this kind of collaboration since school closures.

One teacher told the researchers:

I feel the lack of personal connection with students places a barrier in the way of motivation, engagement, collaboration, and all else in teaching. Technology has helped me to organise lessons and information but places a large obstacle in place for teaching and learning especially for disadvantaged students (see below for more quotes from teachers).

The results also found that the move online resulted in an increase in creativity from teachers and students with teachers using a wide range of technology to connect with students.

It showed that teachers found in-school supports and social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram useful sources of information for continuing their teaching online.

Support from colleagues was also important and teachers particularly used this as a source for advice around technology but also as a way in which to share ideas and teaching approaches.

However, teachers reported less satisfaction with the support provided by the Department of Education and Skills with over a third rating this type of support as either ‘Terrible’ or ‘Poor’.

Some of the other findings of the report include:

  • Some 79% of teachers reported engagement from more than 30% of their students.
  • Teachers in DEIS schools were almost three times more likely to report low engagement. (Low engagement is defined as an average of less than 30% of students engaging)
  • A coordinated whole school approach predicted higher student engagement
  •  Teachers’ self-confidence to work remotely consistently emerged as a significant factor in levels of engagement.
  • Teachers who reported a lack of a dedicated school IT infrastructure are more likely to report low engagement.
  • * Teachers expressed particular concern about students with disabilities.


The anonymous survey was carried out between June 3 and 19 and 723 post-primary school subject teachers from 102 school responded.

The data was gathered by Trinity’s School of Education in cooperation with Trinity Access and funded by Trinity’s COVID-19 Rapid Response initiative.

Its purpose was to gain insight into the experiences and perspectives of teachers as they transitioned from the classroom to online teaching.

A report entitled: ‘Teaching and Learning During School Closures: Lessons Learned’ has been written based on the survey findings to provide an analysis of teaching and learning during COVID-19.

This report was compiled by Dr. Ann Devitt, Dr. Aibhín Bray and Dr. Joanne Banks from the School of Education and Dr. Eilís Ní Chorcora from Trinity Access.

Dr. Ann Devitt, Director of Research at the School of Education and the Academic Director at The Learnovate Centre, said:

The findings show that the mode of delivery of teaching and learning affected students’ levels of engagement, with more interactive and collaborative approaches impacting positively. However, nearly 20% of teachers reported never fostering collaboration during school closures.

“Our findings show that there is a need for teachers to foster relationships with students when they return to the classroom. But there is also a need for teachers to be ready in case such a shutdown happens again and we believe CPD is needed for teachers on how to provide collaborative learning online.

“Given their centrality in engaging and providing continuity of learning for students, it is essential for policy development that the perspectives of teachers are captured, and their experiences of online teaching understood.

This full report is downloadable here:

For more information:

A selection of teachers’ quotes from survey:

“I have become more creative with my teaching. I have been able to support students through a different medium.”

“I am happy to have developed a new skill learning Google Classroom through online tutorials and trial and error, so that is definitely a positive.”

“I feel very behind with the online stuff.”

“I have learned new skills but am confused as to what is the best platform to use.”

“Some students who would really struggle in school have shown themselves to be very creative and talented when given a different medium or more options to express themselves and present their work so that’s great to see.”

“I think we’re all missing out. We are not using any of the collaborative / social teaching methods.”

“There is definitely a feeling of loss……loss of control over student development, loss of routine, loss of friendship and collaboration that a school environment brings, loss of connection- eye contact, touch. The community connection between student, teacher and all school staff are what I miss most. I have become very upset over this throughout the past few weeks.”

“We are missing the social side of seeing each other in person, a lot of learning in my subject is done through real life demonstration so the students are missing out on this.”


Notes for Editors:

Trinity Access (TA) aims to transform the education system, through work at student, school and system-level, so that every young person can reach their full potential. They work in partnership across the education sector with students, teachers, families, communities and businesses to widen access and participation of under-represented groups at third-level.

Learnovate is one of Europe’s leading research and innovation centres in learning technologies. An industry-led technology centre funded by Enterprise Ireland, Learnovate connects world-class academic research with entrepreneurs at the leading edge of the global learning technologies sector. Learnovate research fuses expertise in technology, the learning sciences, product design, user experience and strategic innovation to drive commercial success for the Centre’s industry partners. To find out more, visit