English Language Teacher survey findings from June 2020: COVID-19 Ireland

This second survey by Unite ELT finds 149 English Language Teachers in Ireland believe that living and teaching through the Covid-19 Pandemic has not just been stressful and costly and damaging. Uniquely government has excluded the entire teaching body stakeholder group from all talks to relieve or improve their conditions or discuss conditions for safe return.

Teachers indicate situation may have been less damaging if managers and owners had communicated with them more regularly or would begin to do so. For example, teachers were not informed by their schools of a publicly funded state-chaired Working Group on the English Language Education sector established just after the restrictions for the sector had been officially extended to cover the ELE sector. Nor were teachers informed of their rights while working from home, with exceptions in only a few cases across the 149 teachers responding. Most report having received fewer than 3 emails over the course of the entire pandemic.

In tandem government’s ongoing unilateral policy of exclusion from the ELE Sector Working Group discussions of people who work for wages the English Language Education (ELE) sector is seen as something that is against their interests.

Question 4. All further graphs available below.

This is noted and contextualised by a section of questions focusing on the main areas where ELT workers have traditionally faced precarity and declining conditions for over three decades: personal finance due to low wages and variable hours, accommodation in high cost rented accommodation, and mental health issues stemming from the above and continuous stories of bullying through control of hours, and the absence of regulation and oversight for standards of employment or quality etc.

Added to these areas, was a question about physical health. As workers COVID Ireland this question is more necessary because workers in Irish ELE, just as in other sectors, are faced with a de facto imposition further precarity by government choices to priortise or, in the case of the ELE sector, to exclusively engage in owner-focussed policies, talks, and practice. These exclusionary choices are at the expense of working precarious teachers and predicated on the exclusion of all employees and working people in the sector, unionised or otherwise.

There is also an extensive section detailing ELE operators transition to and practice of operating online teaching with government consent and mandate.

These findings may be a valuable resource for students and student-side stakeholders who are seeking evidence or looking for a view from inside the online classrooms giving vital context for the relative inaction of Irish quality bodies and government departmental policies.

These policies and procedures allowed for-profit schools a free hand with the setting, measurement, recording and enforcement of standards regarding level of student service, refund policies and quality provision.

This may be especially important to stakeholders who are excluded because of the absence of public records of the exclusionary state-chaired ELE Working Group’s decisions regarding the English Language Education sector in Ireland at the time this article and this report are released.

Helpfully, many individual incidents and reports noted in Unite ELT’s first survey (conducted April and May 2020) are given evidence here. These concur with findings from Irish Council for International Students and English Language Students’ Union of Ireland reported in The Irish Times and Dublin Inquirer.

It is recommended that the government’s ELE sector Working Group include teacher representatives as soon as possible.

BACKGROUND AND METHODOLOGY

Unite ELT Branch commissioned this second survey in May 2020 at the height of the first wave of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Ireland. 

The survey was open for approximately one month 2/6/2020-3/7/2020. It was emailed to all Unite ELT members and publicised on various ELT channels. Participants were encouraged to share the survey with members and non-members alike to get the largest available sample.

The questions were designed after studying the results of an extensive preliminary qualitative survey. The report of that survey is available on the Unite ELT website here. [https://eltunite.com/2020/06/18/qualitative-survey-of-elts-in-ireland-during-covid-19-pandemic-april-may-2020/]

The results of that survey indicated three areas for further research. Questions for all respondents focussed on four themes: 

  1. Stakeholder Status; 
  2. Communications during COVID-19; 
  3. Precarity. 
  4. Teaching online

In total there were 149 valid responses out of 153 responses. Approximately 78 participants accessed a Teaching Online section which was written with the input of a large number of members. These questions were accessible through a branching structure which revealed an extensive set of questions on their experience of Teaching Online.

Below is are the graphs representing the information in the responses to the survey.

For further comment or analysis see the full report.

SECTION 1 SUMMARY: STAKEHOLDER STATUS

Forms response chart. Question title: I regard myself as a stakeholder in my school.. Number of responses: 149 responses.

Forms response chart. Question title: I am aware that government established a COVID-19 Working Group for the English Language Education (ELE) sector.. Number of responses: 149 responses.

Forms response chart. Question title: I am aware that English Language Teachers are not represented at this Working Group.. Number of responses: 149 responses.

Forms response chart. Question title: I believe it would be in my professional interests to have representation at this working group. Number of responses: 149 responses.

SECTION 2 SUMMARY: COMMUNICATIONS THROUGH THE COVID-19 SITUATIONForms response chart. Question title: I have received official and formal correspondence from my employer since the beginning of the COVID-19 restrictions regarding my school closure (i.e. email, not social media). Number of responses: 149 responses.

Forms response chart. Question title: I have received regular updates from my school on what is officially happening at each Phase of the COVID restrictions and how this affects my school.. Number of responses: 149 responses.

Forms response chart. Question title: I have received an official, provisional re-opening date from my school after the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.. Number of responses: 149 responses.

Forms response chart. Question title: Information and updates I have received on my school and the ELT sector during the COVID-19 restrictions have been largely through social media.   . Number of responses: 149 responses.

Forms response chart. Question title: I am in regular contact with teachers I was working with since the COVID-19 restrictions closed my school (i.e. once per week).. Number of responses: 149 responses.

SECTION 3 SUMMARY: PRECARITYForms response chart. Question title: I am more concerned about my financial security now than I was before the COVID-19 restrictions.. Number of responses: 149 responses.

Forms response chart. Question title: I am more concerned about my accommodation situation now than I was before the COVID-19 restrictions.. Number of responses: 149 responses.

Forms response chart. Question title: I am more concerned about my physical well-being now than I was before the COVID-19 restrictions.. Number of responses: 149 responses.

Forms response chart. Question title: I am more concerned about my mental well-being now than I was before the COVID-19 restrictions.. Number of responses: 149 responses.

Forms response chart. Question title: I am more concerned about my future as an ELT teacher now than I was before the COVID-19 restrictions.. Number of responses: 149 responses.

SECTION 4 SUMMARY: TEACHING ONLINE

Forms response chart. Question title: Have you taught online for your school at all during the pandemic?. Number of responses: 149 responses.

TEACHING ONLINE: TRAINING

Forms response chart. Question title: 1. Did your school provide you with any training in using its online platform or applications? . Number of responses: 75 responses.

Forms response chart. Question title: 2. How much training was provided?. Number of responses: 75 responses.

Forms response chart. Question title: 3. How much have you been paid for training to teach online thus far?. Number of responses: 74 responses.

TEACHING ONLINE: PLANNING

Forms response chart. Question title: 4. On average how much time do you spend planning each core online class?. Number of responses: 74 responses.

Forms response chart. Question title: 5. Are you paid to plan your online classes?. Number of responses: 74 responses.

Forms response chart. Question title: 6. Has your school made use of an app/automated content delivery system to cover portions of the online lessons?. Number of responses: 75 responses.

Forms response chart. Question title: 6. If there is an app, how appropriate is the app to each level you teach?. Number of responses: 60 responses.

Forms response chart. Question title: 7. Do you have to create material for any of the following?. Number of responses: 72 responses.

TEACHING ONLINE: ATTENDANCE

Forms response chart. Question title: 8. What is the largest number of students that has been assigned to any of your online classes? (If above these ranges use 'Other' to give the largest number.). Number of responses: 75 responses.

Forms response chart. Question title: 9. Have your class sizes generally increased over 15 since moving online? . Number of responses: 73 responses.

Forms response chart. Question title: 10. Has student use of third party applications (videos, tutorials, etc) been used to count towards classroom attendance time in your classes? . Number of responses: 75 responses.

TEACHING ONLINE: RESOURCES

Forms response chart. Question title: 13. Do you have to upload sections/pages from copyrighted published materials to the school’s or a 3rd party online platform? . Number of responses: 74 responses.

TEACHING ONLINE: LESSONS

Forms response chart. Question title: 14. Which levels do you think are best served by online teaching?. Number of responses: 69 responses.

Forms response chart. Question title: 15. Which skill is the most difficult to teach online?. Number of responses: 69 responses.

Forms response chart. Question title: 16. Have you been paid for creating and/or correcting online tests?. Number of responses: 76 responses.

TEACHING ONLINE: COMMUNICATIONS

Forms response chart. Question title: 17. Did your school provide a document outlining your employment rights while working from home?   . Number of responses: 75 responses.

Forms response chart. Question title: 18. Has your school made an acknowledgement of any of the following student issues. Number of responses: 72 responses.

Forms response chart. Question title: 19. Which of the following methods do you use to engage with students out of class time? . Number of responses: 74 responses.

TEACHING ONLINE: HOURS AND INCOME

Forms response chart. Question title: Taken individually, and in comparison to your experience of work in face-to-face schools before the restrictions, how have the following changed:. Number of responses: .

Published by eltunite

English Language Teachers' Branch of Unite the Union.

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