Primary school children ‘months behind’ in learning after lockdown school disruption

Primary school children ‘months behind’ in learning after lockdown school disruption


Primary school children ‘months behind’ in learning after lockdown school disruption

Primary school children ‘months behind’ in learning after lockdown school disruption

Primary school pupils were more than two months behind in reading and three months behind in maths when they returned to school in March following disruption caused by lockdown, new research has found.

Learning losses in reading had increased from autumn term levels, government-commissioned reports have found.

The new research looked at pupils’ progress over the course of the academic year to date amid the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic.

Most students – except for vulnerable and key worker children – were told to stay at home from March last year as England went into its first national lockdown, with some year groups allowed back in June.

While all students were allowed back at the start of the new academic year in September, schools once again restricted attendance onsite to only vulnerable and key worker children at the start of this year..

By March  – when schools reopened after two months of remote lessons – the new research found primary school pupils scored 23 points lower in Star reading assessments compared to similar students in the previous academic year.

For the maths assessments, it was 30.7 points lower, according to the study by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) and Renaissance Learning.

The report suggested primary school learning losses in maths averaged 3.5 months in March 2021, which had worsened since the latter half of the autumn term, when it was 2.7 months.

However, it was less than 3.7 months estimated for the first half of the autumn term.

Meanwhile, learning losses in reading increased, with primary school learning losses averaging 2.2 months in March, which was one month more than the end of the autumn term, and up from 1.8 months during its first half.

The report said these findings suggest “there were further learning losses in primary schools in England in reading and mathematics following the restrictions to in-person learning in early 2021”.

Researchers found disadvantaged primary school pupils were hardest hit with average learning losses of 4.3 months in maths and two months in reading during the first half of the autumn term.

There is evidence of disparities in learning losses at a regional level, the report says, but results should be treated with some caution due to sample sizes.

By October, learning losses in reading for primary pupils were 1.3 months in London, compared to 2.6 months in Yorkshire and the Humber.

Findings on losses for disadvantaged pupils, as well as regional losses, by the spring term following restrictions to in-person teaching will be published by the Department for Education (DfE) later this year, the EPI has said.

“Our data analysis points to a clear penalty faced by disadvantaged pupils during the pandemic – these pupils have seen greater learning losses than their more affluent peers, which risks widening the overall gap in educational attainment,” Jon Andrews, head of analysis at the EPI.

“There are also significant regional disparities, with regions such as Yorkshire and the Humber, the North East and the East Midlands seeing higher levels of learning loss than pupils in London and the South West,” he added.

The report’s co-author added: “We need to continue to look at how we can support all pupils through effective catch-up programmes, but especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, whose education has seen the most damage from the pandemic.”

Geoff Barton from the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said the research provides “further stark evidence of the very severe extent of learning loss among pupils”.

He said: “It is abundantly clear that a recovery programme is urgently required at a scale and scope to address this massive issue.”

The report’s publication comes days after the government announced £1.4bn more would be pumped into helping students to recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, with most of this extra funding going towards tutoring.

But the investment was criticised by unions as falling short of what is needed, while the EPI estimated it works out at £50 per pupil per year and said this was a “long way off” what is required.

The education recovery commissioner resigned in the wake of the announcement, saying support was “too narrow, too small and will be delivered too slowly”.

Additional reporting by Press Association


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