Top Five White Paper Takeaways

New study: effects of educational disruption in summer 2021

This year has posed many challenges to schools, including an extended national lockdown in the spring term followed by high absence rates. Despite this, teachers and staff have shown remarkable resilience and adaptability, and they have ensured children have made significant progress in their learning.  

We have continued our series of white papers, with a final analysis of attainment in the 2020/21 academic year. You can see the full white paper here, or carry on reading for the top five takeaways. It is encouraging to see how quickly progress has been made in areas like reading, and we hope that this research will help identify the areas where additional focus and catch-up investment are needed. 

1. Reading attainment close to prior years for Years 2 to 6 

A strong focus on reading in schools and home this year has resulted in attainment in summer 2021 close to prior years for children in Years 2 to 6. These results showed that on average children made good progress in their learning since the end of the spring term and were close to prior average attainment levels. 

2. Good progress made in maths and grammar, punctuation and spelling by end of the summer 

In maths and grammar, punctuation and spelling (GPS) the gaps in attainment for most year groups were smaller at the end of the summer term, when compared to the spring analysis, indicating the summer term was a time for embedding learning while schools were fully open. However, across these subjects there are still gaps in attainment with the largest in GPS, which showed an average of 2.7 months* behind across the year groups, and 2.3 months in maths.  

3. Younger year groups, Reception and KS1, affected the most  

Across all subjects the younger year groups are showing the largest drops in attainment and therefore needing the most support. Children in Year 1 who have had disruption across both their first school years were on average 3 months behind in reading. Likewise in maths and GPS the children in KS1 remain behind their peers, potentially on average 3 months behind.  

4. There was a further widening of the disadvantage gap in attainment  

The gap in average attainment between those eligible for Pupil Premium and their peers continued to grow across the majority of year groups and subjects. The gap appeared to grow most for those children in Year 1 across all subjects. As seen before we could be looking at a difference of between 6 and 7 months learning between those eligible for Pupil Premium and their peers, thus exacerbating educational disparities.  

5. Year 6 pupils broadly on track in reading 

Had the National Tests in Year 6 been held this year it is likely reading would have had a similar number of pupils reaching the expected standard as prior years. Looking at the same comparison in maths, we may have seen a drop of 5% of children reaching the required standard, and 13% of children in their grammar, punctuation and spelling tests. Secondary schools may need to give extra support to ensure that their new intake of Year 7 children have mastered these more technical aspects of English and maths before progressing to the usual Key Stage 3 curriculum. 

*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 the EEF table, see:  

For information about RS Assessment’s standardised tests used to analyse data, visit PUMA (maths), PiRA (reading) and GAPs (grammar, punctuation and spelling).


Assessment, gaps, pira, puma, Rising Stars Assessment Bank, standardised assessment

Added to your basket: