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The youngest children at primary schools in England were the worst affected by learning loss after last year’s pandemic lockdown, with those aged six and seven most likely to fall behind in maths and writing, according to new evidence.
Data taken from 6,000 primary schools and nearly 1.5 million pupils found a steep drop in the proportion who were reading, writing and doing maths to the level expected at the end of last summer.
The report also found that younger children took longer to recover their lost learning after they returned to the classroom in September.
“Despite the superhuman efforts of school leaders, teachers and families to keep children learning, many pupils are no longer performing as they should be for their age,” concluded the report by Juniper Education, based on data collected from schools using its assessment software.
The report is the latest evidence to suggest that the learning loss suffered by pupils during lockdown has been significant and may require more resources than the £1.3bn now allocated by the government for pupils in England.
While there was an across-the-board fall of a quarter in the proportion of children working at a level consistent with their age, those pupils in year 1 in 2019-20 appear to have suffered the most significant losses.
Before lockdown closed schools to most pupils from March last year, 82% of year 1 pupils had achieved age-related expectations in reading and 83% in maths. By the summer term of 2020, these figures had dropped to 60% and 59% respectively for the same group of children.
Children in year 1 at the start of the pandemic, aged five and six, also fell behind in writing, from 79% working at their expected level to just 54% by summer 2020.
The figures show that for pupils in year 6 – the final year of primary school, for children aged 10 and 11 – the amount of learning loss fell dramatically to just a few percentage points in writing, reading and maths.
Frazer Westmorland, one of the authors of the report and head of Mundella primary school in Kent, said: “Younger pupils have certainly been the most affected from their time away from the classroom. A lot of skills, such as how do I learn, listen and collaborate, are developed at school. They provide the building blocks which allow for progress in learning.
“Many children have had fewer opportunities to embed these skills at home. It means we need to go back to basics with younger year groups to build these skills before we can help them progress.”
The impact on children from disadvantaged backgrounds was even more severe. The proportion of children on free school meals in year 1 doing maths at their appropriate age level fell by more than 30 percentage points, almost 10 percentage points more than among non-disadvantaged children.
The report found steep falls in maths among disadvantaged children in most year groups, “with children in these groups missing the face-to-face support of their teachers in this subject. Another possible influence is that parents are often less confident in supporting their children in maths than in reading and writing,” it noted.
Further data collected after children returned to school last autumn showed that younger children, up to year 2, were slower to improve their performance than those in the years above.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Youngest pupils in England worst affected by Covid learning loss | Schools