TEACHERS are struggling to deliver basic science and technology classes in primary schools because their internet keeps crashing, an expert has warned.

The concerns were raised at a meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s education committee, which is looking at the current delivery of science, technology, engineering and computing topics (Stem).

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Dr Karen Petrie, associate dean for learning and teaching in science and engineering at Dundee University, told the committee she did a lot of work with primary schools throughout Scotland and many complained about internet reliability.

She said: “Before I came here today I asked a lot of the local schools I worked with what was the one thing they wanted me to bring to this inquiry and the main thing that has come back was quite surprising.

“The thing that would help them the most to deliver the curriculum was a working internet connection.

“That was the biggest barrier. On any given day they cannot trust it to be there and it is very difficult to use a lot of digital skills and a lot of technology teaching which is online if you don’t have a working internet connection.”

Ms Petrie said the internet was a particular issue for rural schools, with one she had visited telling her they couldn’t have all the computers on the internet at once or it would crash “which is a major issue for teaching computing science”.

Ms Petrie said there was also a problem with physical resources.

“The bigger schools in city centres often have an IT suite where they can go and deliver things like computing science teaching. That is less common in the rural schools,” she said.

“I know of a school where they have12 laptops that they wheel into the classroom when required, but they are so old they all have to be plugged in so it becomes a tripping hazard for the P2 pupils.”

The committee also heard concerns about the level of basic resources in schools to deliver Stem classes.

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Lorna Hay, a primary teacher from Pitteuchar East Primary, in Fife, said she had bought resources using her own money.

But she also said it was difficult to free up staff for specialist training because of a national shortage of supply teachers.

She said: “My headteacher has said to me that it’s not finding the money to cover me, but they can’t actually get a supply teacher in.”

Alastair MacGregor, chief executive officer with the Scottish Schools Education Research Centre, called for a core funding scheme to develop the type of interventions to promote Stem teaching in the early years. “A lack of resources can be detrimental to attainment and enjoyment,” he said.