Part 2: Under the white paper microscope

In this series of blogs our Publishing Director, Katie Blainey, puts the microscope on our latest white paper about the impact of school closures on spring 2021 attainment. Following on from last week's blog, this week the focus is on the following: younger year groups, Years 1 and 2 in particular, generally showed bigger reductions in attainment than older year groups. 

Key Stage 1 children saw the largest drops in attainment in spring 2021 

One of the most striking trends in the analysis at the end of the spring term was that the average drops in attainment were largest for children in Years 1 and 2 across all subjects. This indicates that during the national lockdown in spring 2021 children in Key Stage 1, and likely Early Years, were affected the most in their learning of core skills.  

Year 1 children dropped the most in maths 

The findings showed that when comparing the current cohort to those who took the papers last year, in maths there was an overall drop of 3.3 standardised score points on average across all years. However, just looking at the Year 1 results, the average drop was 4.0 and 3.6 in Year 2.  

“The timing of the PiRA/PUMA tests was a difficult decision to make. We decided to test pupils prior to the Easter break in order that we have a clear indicator as to the impact of remote learning. In a number of schools children took several weeks to re-establish social groupings and relationships, particularly in settings where a larger proportion of children were attending remotely. This may have negatively impacted upon their test scores.”
Matthew Wynne, Primary Regional Director, United Learning 

Year 1 Reading results indicate an even broader range of ability levels  

Across all years in reading, the Year 1 results saw the largest average drop, that is to say a drop of 4.5 standardised score points compared to the average of 2.5 across all year groups. This does not mean all pupils were affected equally though, as the more in-depth analysis of the distribution of the scores showed quite a different pattern to other subjects. We saw an increase of pupils scoring quite low marks, indicating more children were not keeping up with the demands of the national curriculum by the end of the spring term. Yet we also saw a similar number scoring the highest marks in 2021 as in 2020 and had been able to keep up with, and exceed, the demands of the reading curriculum. This indicates a further widening of reading ability in the youngest year groups. 

As Shareen Wilkinson, Primary English adviser, educational author and teacher commented on the analysis at the end of the autumn term, which remains the case:  

“Interestingly, the biggest gap here is for younger pupils. Indeed, the best strategies to support pupils will be to ensure teachers read aloud (including reading aloud across the curriculum), to promote reading for pleasure, systematic synthetic phonics instruction and explicit teaching.” 
Shareen Wilkinson, Primary English adviser, educational author and teacher 

Year 1 and 2 results for GPS show large drops 

The average drops were of 3.4 standardised score points across all years groups in GPS, but this increased to 4.2 and 4.4 respectively for Years 1 and 2. Our analysis at the end of the autumn term indicated a very similar pattern for GPS, as English specialists Dee and Kate reflected on at the time: 

 “A possible explanation for this is the curriculum content that represents new blocks of knowledge and introduces specific terminology, whereas, broadly speaking, progress in Maths and Reading is more developmental. So, any reading or maths practised at home will contribute to pupils’ progress in those subjects, but unfamiliarity of specific terminology used in the GAPS tests, for example relative clause or possessive pronouns, would bar pupils from answering those questions.” 
Dee Reid and Kate Ruttle, Independent Education Consultants and Authors of Shine: Targeted Interventions for Primary 

Comparing your school’s trends with similar schools nationally 

In such unusual times, being able to gain a deeper insight in your own school’s performance and identify the trends to inform where interventions will have most impact will continue to remain key. We have developed MARK Plus to provide an enhanced level of analysis for schools, to enable you to quickly see deeper insights of pupil and whole-school trends and also to compare your results with similar schools nationally. 



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