Survey on the start of the school year after school closures - Results

Image: Evgeni Tcherkasski /

It is indeed not back to “business as usual”: in our latest survey, only one in two respondents reported that teachers are fully back in the classroom, while stress for both teachers and pupils is also reported. Many feel that pupils have learning gaps and that vulnerable pupils need more support. However, some positive effects are reported, with pupils appreciating school more and developing new skills, and both teachers and students using digital tools more confidently.

The sudden school closures in spring this year forced school heads, teachers and parents to innovate and “go the extra mile” to support children to learn in a quite different setting. The start to the school year 2020/21 is certainly still not “business as usual”. Education systems and their schools have made various plans to provide safe schooling that respects social distancing rules, drawing on the many experiences from school closure, including a consideration of blended learning models.

This survey aimed to find out how the start of the school year went for teachers and others, and to gauge concerns and positive developments. It was open on School Education Gateway from 24 August to 27 September and attracted 515 respondents, 78% of whom were teachers.

Results (N= 515)

1. How are you, or teachers in a school you know, teaching lessons at the start of this school year?

Graph 1

While more than half the respondents (55%) are teaching face to face in school, 29% are teaching partly face to face and partly at a distance: of these, 24% are using mainly digital tools and 4% are using paper-based materials. 8% are teaching exclusively at a distance.

2. Do you notice that pupils are missing knowledge and skills they would normally have gained at the end of the school year 2019/20?

Graph 2

Only 4% agreed that pupils have no learning gaps at the beginning of this school year. 63% think that their pupils have learning gaps they need to address: of these, 22% feel that the learning gaps are substantial. 13% of respondents did not know yet.

3. What did some or most of your pupils gain during lockdown in the school year 2019/2020 that they might not have gained in a normal classroom setting? Choose up to 3 options.

Graph 3

More positively, most respondents (86%) agreed that pupils had gained skills during the lockdown that they might not have gained otherwise, notably digital competence (mentioned by 74%), followed by “learning to learn / self-directed learning” (50%) and creativity (33%).

4. What are the most noticeable changes in your school staff? Choose up to 3 options.

Graph 4

The most prevalent change is increased stress, mentioned by 64% of respondents, followed by using digital tools more confidently (59%) and using different teaching approaches (41%). 30% of respondents felt that school staff are more engaged with change and doing things differently, while 27% said that teachers are feeling more isolated. Only 20% thought that teachers are more supportive of blended learning.

5. What are the most noticeable changes in your pupils? Choose up to 3 options.

Graph 5

Pupils also experienced increased stress, according to 28% of respondents, but the most noticeable changes include pupils using digital tools more confidently (put forward by 47%) and seeming to appreciate school more (43%). Of particular concern, however, is that the gap between high and low achievers seems to have increased (according to 31%), and that pupils with special educational needs require even more support (also 31%). 20% of respondents reported that introverted pupils seemed to be more confident since the lockdown, and 11% found that pupil-teacher relationships had improved.


Some caution is needed in interpreting the results, given that the sample of respondents is based on voluntary online participation and is relatively small compared to the total population of teachers and other stakeholders in Europe. Although almost 40 countries are represented in this survey, most respondents come from Italy (20% of the total), Greece (12%) and Turkey (11.5%). For another perspective, you can also check the European School Heads Association’s survey on the same topic.

The survey results emphasise that the school year 2020-21 is indeed not back to “business as usual”: only half the respondents are fully back in the classroom, many pupils have learning gaps, there is stress for both teachers and pupils, and vulnerable pupils need more support. However, the results also reveal some positive effects, with many pupils appreciating school more than before, and both teachers and students using digital tools more confidently.

It is too early to tell if such positive effects are here to stay. Enabling schools to effectively navigate this school year will be one key enabler for more long-term innovations in teaching and learning. The survey results also suggest that many teachers do not necessarily seem to be more open to change or more supportive of blended learning scenarios – even in these particular circumstances.

If teachers are to successfully master the challenge of providing sufficient support to their students this school year, they themselves need support and guidance. Only then can they be expected to also build on the positive changes that the COVID-19 crisis has brought about, through more innovative teaching practices.

Annex: Role of respondents

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