The Education Endowment Fund is warning that the impact of Lockdown could worsen the attainment gap by a further 50% between now and the end of September if counter measures are not taken as soon as possible
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to school closures across the UK and many countries across the world, with the majority of pupils in these systems out of school, though supported and taught in various ways. There has been great concern that school closures will lead to slower rates of learningor learning loss, and there is a risk that the negative impact will be worse for pupils who are economically disadvantaged.
A plausible bad scenario would see the gap widening by 75 per cent, compared to its current size, the foundation said. A plausible good scenario would see the gap widening by 11 per cent.
The study cites research from the Education Policy Institute (EPI), which estimates that disadvantaged pupils leaving primary school were around 11.5 months behind their classmates in 2009, but that this gap had narrowed to 9.2 months last year. The EEF now says that progress has been undone.
- School closures are likely to reverse progress made to narrow the gap in the last decade. The projections suggest that school closures will widen the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers, likely reversing progress made to narrow the gap since 2011.
- The median estimate indicates that the gap would widen by 36%.However, the estimated rate of gap widening varied substantially between studies, meaning that there is a high level of uncertainty around this average. Plausible “good” and “bad” estimates range from the gap widening from 11% to 75%.
- Supporting effective remote learning will mitigate the extent to which the gap widens. Pupils can learn through remote teaching. However, ensuring the elements of effective teaching are present—for example through clear explanations, scaffolding and feedback—is more important than how or when lessons or support are provided.
- To increase access to teaching, it would also be valuable to test the feasibility of online tuition as a way to supplement the support provided by teachers to disadvantaged children.
- Sustained support will be needed to help disadvantaged pupils catch up. It is highly likely that the gap will have widened when pupils return to school, even if the strongest possible mitigatory steps are put in place.
- Catch-up provision, including assessment of lost learning and targeted support, will be essential. However, it is unlikely that a single catch-up strategy will be sufficient to compensate for lost learning due to school closures. There is a risk that high levels of absence after schools formally reopen poses a particular risk for disadvantaged pupil.