Impact of school closures and subsequent support strategies on attainment in Key Stage 1

Susan Rose, Karim Badr, Lydia Fletcher, Tara Paxman, Pippa Lord, Simon Rutt, Ben Styles, Liz Twist and Angela Donkin

03 December 2021

This study investigated the impact of school closures relating to Covid-19 on pupils' attainment in Key Stage 1 (Years 1 and 2) in reading and maths. 

The publication is available on the website.

It explored data from over 12,000 children who took NFER reading and maths assessments during the academic year 2020/21 in over 150 primary schools; and compared their attainment with representative pre-pandemic samples. It explored the gap between the attainment of children from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers. The full report also explored any changes in attainment over the course of the academic year 2020/21.

Key Findings

  • Each term, pupils were behind their pre-pandemic peers in reading and maths attainment, except for Year 2 pupils in mathematics in summer 2021:
    • By the end of the summer term, Year 1 children remained three months behind where we would expect them to be in reading. However, there was some evidence of recovery in maths, with Year 1 children being only one month behind their pre-pandemic peers.
    • Year 2 pupils were still two months behind in reading at the end of the summer term, but had recovered to above pre-pandemic standards in maths[1].
    • There was a substantial gap between the attainment of pupils eligible for free school meals and their peers, which remained at seven months by the summer term (although the disadvantage gap closed slightly for Year 1 pupils in reading and maths between the spring and summer terms).

  • In both subjects, large proportions of children were unable to access the assessment fully compared to pre-pandemic samples. Our diagnostic analysis found that children from disadvantaged backgrounds were more likely to find all parts of the maths and reading curriculum harder. The areas that children in both year groups found difficult included making inferences from complex texts and multiplication and division questions.

  • To support recovery, schools were using small group work in reading and maths, and had a notable focus on wellbeing and PSHE. The attainment and disadvantage gaps found in this study will require targeted and continued support to reduce, as these children continue into their next years of learning.

[1] Note, the study used past national curriculum assessment papers for the summer term assessment for Year 2 pupils, as NFER Year 2 assessments cover autumn and spring terms only.

Related links:

  1. Impact of school closures and subsequent support strategies on attainment at KS1: interim findings 2
  2. Impact of partial school closures on KS1: potential implications for practice in year 2