Catch-up calls as pupils lose ‘months of learning’ in lockdown

The Government said it will work with schools to develop "a long-term plan" to support catch-up programmes.

The Government said it will work with schools to develop "a long-term plan" to support catch-up programmes. - Credit: PA

Primary school pupils have lost the ‘equivalent of seven months’ learning’ due to lockdown and school closures, a report has found.  

Research by the charity Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) found “significantly lower achievement” in reading and maths.

The findings come after Boris Johnson pledged schools would receive £300 million of new money for catch-up tutoring.

Schoolchildren make their way to primary school but closures are to last until at least March 8.

Schoolchildren make their way to primary school but closures are to last until at least March 8. - Credit: PA

With school closures extended until at least March 8, he said the Government would work with schools to develop "a long-term plan" to provide support through catch-up programmes "so that nobody gets left behind".

He said: “We recognise these extended school closures have had a huge impact on children’s learning, which will take more than a year to make up.”

The EEF study of 6,000 six and seven-year-olds in 168 schools in autumn 2020 found they were on average making around two months’ less progress in maths and reading compared to tests taken by pupils of the same age in autumn 2017.

For both reading and maths this gap is estimated to be the equivalent of seven months’ learning.


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The study also found a “large and concerning gap” between the attainment of disadvantaged pupils and non-disadvantaged pupils.

Former Suffolk headteacher Geoff Barton, now general secretary at the Association of School and Coll

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders - Credit: DANNY HEWITT

Former Suffolk head Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL head teachers' union, said: “These bleak findings once again emphasise the pressing need for more catch-up support for children whose education has been disrupted by the pandemic.”

He said “little detail” had been provided about the government’s catch-up plans but that support will “need to be substantial in order to address the scale of the challenge which lies ahead”. 

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He added: “We would urge the government to ensure that all extra funding goes directly to schools and colleges rather than money being channelled through the convoluted mechanism of a subsidised tutoring scheme.”

The National Tutoring Programme (NTP), which has supported schools and students through the pandemic, said three quarters of parents it had surveyed in the East of England were worried about their child’s education being impacted.

A study found primary pupils have lost the ‘equivalent of seven months’ learning’ due to school closures.

A study found primary pupils have lost the ‘equivalent of seven months’ learning’ due to school closures. - Credit: Getty Images

The programme has included the East Anglian Schools’ Teaching School Alliance (EASTA), comprising 11 schools within Norfolk and Suffolk, led by Notre Dame High School in Norwich, that received funding to recruit skilled tutors and match them with local schools.

Other ideas floated for pupils to catch-up include repeating a year, lengthening the school day and the extending academic year.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the EEF, said: “By the time schools reopen, children and young people will have faced almost a year of learning disruption.

“The repercussions of these months of lost learning are devastating and will be felt for a lifetime, especially by those from low-income backgrounds.”

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