24 Sep 2020
By Mark Richards
It’s impossible at this stage, and it may never be possible, to count the true cost the COVID lockdown has caused to the education of pupils. However, early studies have already shown that the attainment gap has widened due to the lockdown, and the time that pupils have already had away from their normal day-to-day lessons in school.
The report, published by the Data Evaluation and Learning for Viral Epidemics (DELVE) Group, shows that the attainment gap widened during the lockdown. The widest gap appears to be emerging with pupils of primary school age.
The research is based on the scores of the lowest and highest performing pupils taking reading and comprehension tests. The gap between the highest and lowest performing pupils in four different year groups has increased during the period that schools have been partially closed. The year groups in question are 3, 5, 7 and 9.
The Star Test results that the research is based on were completed on the online platform, Renaissance Learning. The widest gaps are now evident in primary school age groups. Overall, the largest increase between the lowest and highest performers can be seen with Year 3 pupils.
The increase at Year 3 is 52%, and at Year 5 the increase in the difference in scores also stands high at 39%. The increase looks even bigger when you compare it to the test scores of secondary age pupils. For example, the gap for Year 7 and 9 pupils has increased by just 13%.
More worrying still is a separate piece of research that suggests the attainment gap between the most disadvantaged pupils and their peers could have widened by as much as 75%.
Sadly, it is no surprise that it will be the most disadvantaged in society, ultimately, who will be most impacted by school closures. It is the most disadvantaged that cause the most concern during even the normal six-week summer holidays. Thousands, if not millions, of children in this country rely on school meals. In the holidays, the disadvantaged lose the stability and the security that the school day provides.
Online learning has many advantages and the likes of Zoom and Microsoft Teams have really come into their own over recent months. However, there really is no substitute for actually being in the classroom.
This is why both schools and the government are so keen that all children go back to school in September if at all possible. The additional funding that is being made available through the COVID Catch-Up Fund will obviously help to address the widening attainment gap. However, only time will tell if anything can fully compensate for the lost time that has been incurred on young people as a result of the COVID epidemic.
Although all the recent studies and research suggests that children are going to be up against it to make up the impact lost time in school has had on their education, we will just have to wait and see if the attainment gap can be closed.
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