Part 4: 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: during the spring term, regional differences showed no consistent patterns across all year groups and subjects. This was in contrast to our previous findings at the end of the autumn term.

No consistent patterns in regional differences in the spring 

In contrast to the end of autumn term analysis, we found that by the end of the spring term there were no consistent regional trends in attainment drops. There were, however, differences in attainment by region in the spring which are worth drawing out, but not to the same extremes we saw previously.

Higher drops in attainment in schools in the Midlands in reading 

The analysis of reading scores at the end of the spring term 2021 showed that there were higher drops in attainment in the Midlands when compared with spring 2020. Looking further at the schools in the Midlands who had taken the tests we did notice that they did tend to have the highest overall rates of children eligible for Free School Meals (FSM). As we have seen previously, the schools with highest levels of FSM eligibility also saw larger drops in attainment.  

The reading analysis also showed that regardless of region, the children in Years 1 and 2 were affected the same, as discussed in the second blog in this series. Primary English adviser, Shareen, reflected on this at the end of the autumn term.   

“Although there are some disparities across the regions, this data unequivocally demonstrates the urgent support needed for younger pupils. All pupils now need the best teaching, which includes explicit instruction, vocabulary teaching, reading aloud and systematic synthetic phonics for Year 1 pupils.” 
Shareen Wilkinson, Primary English adviser, educational author and teacher 

Higher maths and GPS drops in Year 1 and 2 at schools in the North  

The other notable difference in attainment was seen in the maths and GPS test results of Years 1 and 2 children. These two year groups saw the highest drops in attainment in schools in the North, when compared with all other year groups and when compared to the results in the South and North of England.  

Understanding trends in your school and comparing with similar schools  

Analysis such as this is helpful to get a sense of the broader trends in England, but within this analysis of 300-400 schools will be 300-400 different local contexts and different experiences of the national lockdown. We have developed MARK and MARK Plus to help schools quickly understand the trends and strengths and weaknesses at their own school. By quickly running pupil, group and class reports in MARK each term you’ll be better able to spot trends and monitor progress of your pupils. We have further enhanced the reporting and analysis to provide deeper insight of school performance in MARK Plus, with dashboards of pupil and whole-school trends that allows schools to compare results with similar schools nationally.  

Closing thoughts and looking ahead to the end of the summer term  

As we enter the final weeks of this academic year and schools begin to take their summer papers, we will continue to carry out this large-scale analysis of attainment trends to help give schools a way to benchmark their own results with other schools, particularly while there are no statutory assessments in 2021. We welcome feedback, so if your school or MAT would like to be further involved in our next white paper analysis of the summer term data please do contact us at 

“This white paper was reassuring to us. As a large group of schools, the progress rates seen nationally seem to mirror our own concerns following the spring test analysis. Clearly there is some way to go in terms of catch-up, however we feel that the longer term view is positive. Most pupils made progress from the autumn term baseline tests. Tracking across the academic year in this manner is enabling an accurate point to point mapping for each pupil, giving teachers the additional data analysis to inform daily classroom practice.” 
Matthew Wynne, Primary Regional Director, United Learning 



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