Primary teachers face 3 months of Covid learning loss

Key stage 1 pupils have fallen back on reading and maths due to pandemic disruption, NFER and EEF research shows

Claudia Civinini

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Covid has cost about three months of progress in maths and reading for children in key stage 1, new research reveals.

And the disadvantage gap has widened to seven months for the 5-7 age group due to the disruption caused by the pandemic, the research conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research and funded by the Education Endowment Foundation shows.

The research compared pupils' attainment after the second period of partial school closures in 2021 to that of the 2019 spring cohort.


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The research found that Year 1 pupils made, on average, three months’ less progress for both reading and maths compared with the spring 2019 cohort.

And Year 2 pupils were three months behind in reading and around two months for maths, compared with the level pupils were at before the coronavirus crisis.

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The study also found a substantial attainment gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged pupils. In spring 2021, it was seven months of progress in both subjects for Year 1 pupils, while it was seven months for reading and eight for maths in Year 2.

For Year 2 pupils, the disadvantage gap has grown: it was six months for both subjects in 2019.

Professor Becky Francis, CEO of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: “While these findings are concerning, each new piece of research can help us to better understand the scale of the challenge facing our teachers.

“Important work is already being done in schools to ensure that children’s progress is brought back on track and their wellbeing is restored in the wake of the pandemic.

“However, schools need ongoing access to resources which will allow them to perform at their best, and to ensure that pupils surpass 'recovery' to achieve the full extent of their potential.”

The NFER and EEF also provided a series of recommendations based on the curriculum areas pupils struggled with the most.

Generally, the areas that children found difficult were the same in 2021 and 2019, but the 2021 cohort had some additional challenges.

For example, in reading, the 2021 pupils were more likely to miss out questions and far less likely than children in 2019 to reach the end of the papers.

The data used in the study comes from reading and maths assessments taken by more than 10,000 pupils aged 5 to 7 from 156 schools in the spring term 2021.

This dataset was compared with that of a representative sample of key stage 1 children in spring 2019.

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Claudia Civinini

Claudia Civinini

Find me on Twitter @claudiacivinini

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