Second lockdown school closure set pupils back just when they were starting to catch up, says report

The second lockdown school closure meant children lost the academic gains they made after their initial return to the classroom, an official Government study has found.

When pupils were invited back to the classroom following the first national shutdown, they went on to make “some progress” in catching up in core subjects by the end of the autumn term in 2020, researchers said.

But by the summer term of 2021, following the second period of school closures from January to March 2021, “some of these academic gains were seen to have been lost”, according to a major report from the Department for Education.

The study, which summarised findings from research conducted over the course of the previous academic year, found that the biggest challenge secondary schools faced in helping pupils to recover from their lost learning was the state of pupils’ emotional and mental health and wellbeing.

Meanwhile for primary schools, the biggest challenge was the “large differences in progress” between pupils – according to a poll of more than 1,000 education leaders by Ipsos Mori, which the DfE commissioned as part of its study.

Behaviour problems

Researchers also noted that students who were stuck at home during the January to March lockdown of 2021 resented their peers who had been allowed to stay at school.

“Unexpected behaviour issues also occurred in March in some cases, such as resentment or conflict from pupils learning from home towards those attending in person during lockdown,” the report said.

Researchers noted that as the academic year progressed, primary and secondary school leaders reported that “disparities in pupils’ social, emotional and academic progress increased, with pupils having increasingly complex and variable needs”.

Pupils from deprived backgrounds who did not attend school or engage with remote learning seem to have been “most profoundly impacted” by the pandemic, the report added.

It came as official figures showed that around a quarter of catch-up tutoring courses for this academic year have been delivered by Randstad, the provider of the Government’s flagship tuition scheme.

More than 300,000 tutoring courses began last term – all of which were delivered “in-house” by schools, rather than with a third party tutoring company. Meanwhile, just 72,000 courses began under schemes coordinated by chosen provider Randstad, figures showed.

Schools also experienced the highest number of teacher absences during the first week of term since height of the "pingdemic" last summer, official figures showed. 

Almost one in twenty teachers were off due to Covid

Last Thursday, roughly one in  20 teachers (4.9 per cent) were off school for Covid-related reasons. That was the largest proportion since mid-July 2021, when close contacts were still required to self-isolate.

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