Impact of partial school closures on KS1: potential implications for practice in year 2

Susan Rose, Tara Paxman, Jemma Coulton and Parveen Akhtar

26 February 2021

Research report on the EEF website

As part of a larger study investigating the impact of school closures on Key Stage 1 children, this new publication gives a detailed analysis on how year 2 children’s performance in reading and maths may have been affected since the start of the pandemic.

The analysis is a diagnostic commentary of almost 6000 year 2 children, with a particular focus on the experience of disadvantaged children. It is part of the first wave of data collection and follows the interim findings from the ongoing larger study into the impact of partial school closures, conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) and funded by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF).

This new publication looks at the patterns in children’s performance on NFER’s standardised assessments in reading and maths, highlighting common errors and misconceptions where they appear. Where relevant, these findings were compared with the results of children who took the same assessments in 2017, from a representative sample of schools. This information was then used to determine the areas of the curriculum in which children may need more support.

In addition to these findings, this research also considers potential implications for practice which offer ideas for learning. These ideas were created with a range of learning scenarios in mind to take into account the ongoing changes to schooling, and are intended to complement and work in partnership with broader school efforts to promote the best possible outcomes for children.

Key Findings

This diagnostic information is based on the results from assessments taken by nearly 6000 year 2 children (aged 6-7) in autumn term 2020.

  • In both subjects, year 2 children did less well in 2020 than year 2 children did in 2017. Disadvantaged children performed less well than other children on all questions and were less likely to attempt questions towards the end of the assessments.
  • In both subjects, data suggests that the gender gap, the performance difference between boys and girls, has remained stable since 2017. Boys still do less well than girls in reading but do marginally better than girls in mathematics.
  • In reading, evidence from 2020 suggests that the disruption to schooling has had the greatest effect on children who are still at the early stages of learning to read, with children across the cohort misinterpreting question words, struggling to make specific inferences, and failing to understand sequences of events in stories.
  • In maths, curriculum areas that children found challenging in 2020, such as money and fractions, were the same as those that pupils struggled with in 2017. Children in 2020 found multiplication and division calculations more difficult, especially when they were required to recall facts from multiplication tables. However, average performance in year 1 topic areas was often at least as good as in 2017. This may be a result of consolidation in the autumn term of 2020 rather than the introduction of new material.

Further data sweeps and analysis are planned for March 2021 and June 2021 and will involve both year 1 and year 2 children.

More information on the diagnostic guidance provided with NFER Tests can be found here.