Interim report highlights clear learning loss due to Covid-19

According to an interim report from Renaissance, commissioned by the DfE, all year groups in England have experienced a learning loss in reading, ranging from 1.6 months to two months in the 2020 to 2021 academic year. In reading, pupils in Year 3-9 were on average around 1.6 - 2 months behind where they would be expected to be. In mathematics, pupils in Year 3-7 were on average 3.2 months behind.

Renaissance, the EPI and DfE analysed large scale data gained from Renaissance Star Assessments across the country to understand better what it tells us about pupil attainment during the pandemic. Unlike other studies, by comparing attainment among different groups of pupils to that of their peers at the same point in previous years, it provides a picture of Covid-specific disruption.

The initial findings are based on more than 400,000 reading and maths assessments taken in Autumn 2020 and show that by the first Autumn 2020 half-term, on average pupils in all year groups from Year 3-9 had made less progress than would have been expected under ‘normal’ circumstances.

The interim findings also point to some regional disparities in the impact of the disruption due to Covid-19 on reading, with pupils in the North East and Yorkshire and the Humber seeing the greatest losses.

The interim findings also show that pupils in schools with high rates of pupils eligible for Free School Meals are, on average, further behind than those in schools with low rates. Pupils in primary schools with high free school meals (FSM) eligibility rates were two months behind in reading, compared to 1.7 months for those in schools with low FSM rates.

Commenting on the interim report, John Moore, Director at Renaissance Learning said: “To understand the impact of the pandemic on pupils’ education outcomes, the effective use of valid, reliable assessment data is more important than ever. Based on assessments of pupils’ actual performance, these findings begin to illustrate exactly where the learning loss occurred and will help to identify where and in what areas, the catch-up is needed for pupils in England. This interim data is a key step in understanding both the immediate and potential long-term impact of Covid-19 on students in England and any learning loss caused by the pandemic.

"All our work at Renaissance is rooted in research and best practice from education professionals, psychometricians and data scientists – with the goal of improving outcomes and accelerating learning for all. This research will provide schools, academics, and MATs with the relevant insights they need to tailor learning effectively and address the clear impact of Covid-19 on teaching and learning in the months and years ahead.

"Teachers, pupils, and parents have gone above and beyond during this challenging period of remote and hybrid learning. Education technology has come to the fore during school closures and Renaissance is doing all it can to support schools as they look to return to the classroom and begin to consider how they may address learning losses.

"For policy makers and school leaders, the report will also provide lessons for potential repeated disruption, both from this pandemic and from any other instances which result in an interruption to learning so we can ensure any further impact is limited. The report also underscores the importance of regular tracking data to allow schools to assess pupil progress and the role of education technology in supporting pupils’ outcomes.”