Here’s how much learning pupils have really lost

David Gash has calculated not just the academic time lost, but also the social and pastoral time, and one looks a lot worse than the other

David Gash

coronavirus september

By the time we reach the summer holidays, most of our pupils will have missed 70 days of normal school with their teachers and fellow students.

That’s why there is so much focus on "catch up" – teachers and leaders across all subjects are considering what a “recovery curriculum” may look like, how we can build on the successes of home learning and how gaps in learning may be identified. 

The magnitude of the task feels rather daunting, but what does this lost learning look like in reality, and can we mitigate the losses?

September post-coronavirus catch up

I have done some calculations to work out how much, in reality, a student may have lost. 

The headline is: 350 hours of lessons.

Yes, you read that correctly. Assuming five hours of lessons per day across the 14 weeks from when lockdown began, until the end of the school year, the students in Y7 to year 11 have lost 350 hours of lessons (in primary, presumably the total hours of learning will be very similar). 


Planning September catch up? Mark Enser has some tips in this webinar


Now let’s take this down to a subject level. In my subject, Science, working on 4 x 1-hour lessons per week, we get a total of 56 lost hours of learning.

It’s bad, right?

The real figure

But wait, is it really that dramatic? 

In that time, we would have completed end-of-year assessments plus revision time, accounting potentially for three weeks of lessons. 

This leaves 11 weeks or 44 hours. Some schools set aside days in the summer term for concerts, drama productions, and many more wonderful events that take time away from the core curriculum, and rightly so. So this could leave us with nine weeks of lost learning time in science or 36 lessons. 

If we turn our attention to option subjects and follow a similar line of reasoning, we arrive at a loss of 42 lessons, 27 when taking off the “summer losses” described above. 

The other losses

Broken down in this way, the "catch up" seems a lot less daunting and a lot more manageable. At least academically. 

Let’s take a look at what else our students have lost.

  • 17.5 hours of break time
    Socialising with friends, catching up on the latest trends, memes, gossip and jokes. 
  • 35 hours of lunchtime
    A time when some of our young people get their only meal of the day.
  • 35 hours with form tutors
    Those heroes who support the mental wellbeing of our students. Thirty-five hours of lost opportunities to cheer up a teenager who needs support. Thirty-five hours of relationship building and laughter.
  • 14 hours of extra-curricular
    Opportunities to develop skills and experiences that will last a lifetime, delayed.

In my mind, these figures represent the real losses. They are much harder to "catch up" on. 

So, a plea: when we talk about lost school time, let’s look at it holistically. And when we talk about recovery curricula, yes we should work to ensure pupils experience the full teaching of the exam specification and the implementation of a “broad and balanced curriculum”, but we should also converse, interact, and laugh together once again, too.

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David Gash

David Gash is a secondary science teacher and head of faculty from the North West. He tweets @DJGteaching

Find me on Twitter @DJGteaching

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