Part 1: 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. This week the focus is on the following: GPS and maths showed the largest declines — representing a gap of on average three months' learning loss across all year groups — and reading, on average, showed a two-month gap.

Decreases in attainment across every subject and year group 

The analysis showed there were decreases in attainment from 2020 to 2021 across every subject and year group, with larger declines than seen at the end of the preceding autumn term 2020.  

Maths and GPS saw the largest average drop in spring 2021

Maths saw an overall drop of 3.3 standardised score points, which corresponds to up to three months’ learning*. Children in Key Stage 1 were most affected, but the pattern was fairly consistent across all Key Stage 2 year groups, which is in contrast to our previous analysis at the end of the autumn term.   

"Given the significant amount of time out of school, the maths curriculum was not fully taught. PUMA outcomes showed some significant gaps in learning, analysis shows that on average children had missed 20% of the required curriculum content."
Matthew Wynne, Primary Regional Director, United Learning

The declines in GPS in spring 2021 were an average of 3.4 standardised score points, which again equates to up to three months’ learning. The most affected year groups were 1, 2 and 6.  

In reading, the average drop in spring 2021 was 2.5 standardised score points across all year groups, this could amount to an average of up to two months’ learning. The most affected year groups were the youngest, with Year 1 children showing the largest declines. This was consistent with the end of the autumn term, indicating the need to support younger children in their reading development.  

"Confidence in supporting reading was the opposite [of maths], parents engaged with the shared text and phonics lessons. We feel that this has enabled a number of pupils to maintain confidence as well as a steady rate of progress."
Matthew Wynne, Primary Regional Director, United Learning

Your school’s action plan 

Your school will no doubt have identified their own action plan based on the individual needs of your  pupils. Understanding what might be affecting attainment changes in your year groups will be key. Topic level and question level analysis can help to identify if changes are caused by testing topics that haven’t been taught yet, or perhaps prior knowledge not being retained. Targeted interventions and activities could be the next step to addressing the areas of weakness demonstrated in your pupils’ diagnostic test results. For help with this, you might be interested in our targeted interventions programme, Shine.

Looking ahead to the summer term 

The evidence in our white paper indicates that continuing to monitor performance at the end of the term and school year is very important. This is because summer papers are designed to assess the key skills and knowledge for the whole year group, therefore helping schools to check whether all children have kept up with the demands of their curriculum.   

With this in mind, as pupils start the new academic year in September, you may wish to check in on their understanding of core maths building blocks. This is why we have created Ready, Check, Go, our interactive diagnostic knowledge checker developed in line with the Ready to Progress criteria. In just 30 minutes at the start of the academic year, identify your Year 2-6 pupils' understanding of core maths building blocks. Instantly pinpoint pupils who need extra support so that you can ensure they are up to speed with non-negotiables before you get going with the curriculum.

Closing thoughts

The key now is to focus on quality teaching and learning to support pupils, so I thought I’d end this blog with the words of Bev Allford from Victorious Academies Trust who summarises this  perfectly. 

"The pandemic has hit everybody in all walks of life and the impact of this cannot be erased. Our plan at the Victorious Academies Trust is not erase it but to reshape through support of excellent teaching, analysis of data to target gaps in knowledge and prioritise improvements."
Bev Allford, School Improvement Officer, Victorious Academies Trust 


*The estimates of months’ learning loss quoted above were calculated using a method2 developed by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) that translates effect sizes to months of learning. They should be treated with caution and are no more than a rough indicative guide. Effect sizes were calculated by dividing the difference in standardised score points between 2020 and 2021 cohorts by the standard deviation of the 2020 cohort. These were converted to months using this EEF table.



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