ASCL comment on NFER report into learning progress during partial Covid school closures

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, comments on the National Foundation for Education Research report into the impact of partial school closures during the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is perhaps not surprising that the reading progress of Year 1 pupils was the most negatively impacted by Covid lockdowns. Schools worked very hard to teach them remotely but this is obviously particularly challenging with young pupils, and the ability of many parents to support them will have been constrained by having to juggle other responsibilities.  It is a worry because confidence in reading is such a vital building block to learning.
“However, the improvement made for all year groups in reading and maths by last summer, when children had been back in school, is encouraging, and shows how good schools have been at addressing learning gaps. This is even more remarkable given that the recovery support they have had from the government has been both confused and inadequate.
“The NFER study finds strong evidence that the gap between disadvantaged children and their peers widened during the pandemic. Unfortunately, this is also not surprising as disadvantaged children often did not have access to a laptop or tablet, and may not have had a suitable space in which to work, as well as facing the many other challenges that come with disadvantage.
“The underlying problem is that, even before the pandemic began, it was estimated that it would take 500 years to close the disadvantage gap at the current rate of progress.
“This is what we need to urgently address as a society, and this can only really be achieved with a national strategy in which the government works with the education sector to bring about really significant change and improve the life chances of these young people.”