Impact of school closures and subsequent support strategies on attainment at KS1: interim findings 2

Susan Rose, Liz Twist, Pippa Lord, Tara Paxman, Jemma Coulton, Parveen Akhtar, Simon Rutt, Karim Badr, Chris Hope and Ben Styles

02 July 2021

The publication is available on the www.educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk website.

This is the second round of interim findings of a study estimating the impact of Covid-19 related disruption on KS1 pupils’ attainment. Schools in England were closed to all pupils apart from vulnerable pupils and children of keyworkers in spring and part of the summer terms of 2020, and again in the spring term of 2021. The study is being conducted by statisticians and assessment researchers at NFER, and is funded by the Education Endowment Foundation. It also aims to determine the parts of the curriculum with which children are struggling, and to provide practical support for teachers.

The results focus on reading and maths assessments taken by over 5,000 Year 1 pupils and over 5,000 Year 2 pupils from 156 schools in the spring term of 2021. Their attainment was compared with that of representative samples of Year 1 and Year 2 children in spring 2019.

Key Findings

Year 1 pupils

  • Year 1 pupils made on average three months’ less progress for both reading and maths compared with the standardisation cohort of spring 2019.
  • The gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged pupils in spring 2021 for Year 1 is around seven months for both reading and maths.

Year 2 pupils

  • Year 2 pupils made on average three months’ less progress for reading, and around two months’ less progress for mathematics, compared with the standardisation cohort of spring 2019.
  • The disadvantage gap in spring 2021 for Year 2 is around seven months for reading and eight months for mathematics. (This gap was estimated to be around six months in both subjects for Key Stage 1 in 2019.)

This spring term data shows that Year 1 children have fallen behind and there is a large disadvantaged gap. It also confirms that Year 2 children have fallen behind and that disadvantage gaps have widened since 2019.

Alongside the interim findings, diagnostic commentaries have been produced which look at the patterns in children’s performance on NFER’s standardised assessments in reading and mathematics. As well as looking in more detail at curriculum areas of strength, they highlight common errors and misconceptions and this information has been used to identify where children may need more support. The research also considers the potential implications for practice and offers ideas for learning designed to complement teachers’ efforts to support children’s academic progress.

It is important to note that both the autumn 2020 and spring 2021 findings are based on assessments taken in those terms, and compared to relevant standardisation samples from previous years. NFER will be conducting analysis of any changes over time, including at a pupil level, along with summer term data. These results, along with those of another strand of the work looking at the development of pupils’ social skills, will be published in the autumn term.