EEF releases NFER study of KS1 pandemic impact

Research published by the Education Endowment Foundation assesses the impact of disruptions to learning on younger pupils’ reading and maths skills.

The study, by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), looks at data from reading and maths assessments taken by more than 10,000 Key Stage 1 pupils (five to seven-year-olds) from 168 representative schools in the autumn term of 2020 and the spring and summer terms of 2021. Their attainment was compared with that of a representative sample of Year 1 and 2 children prior to the pandemic to give estimates of the “Covid gap”.

The study finds little progress for Year 1 pupils in reading  –  attainment in reading was, on average, three months lower in both spring and summer 2021 than pre-Covid levels. However, while Year 1 pupils were about three months behind previous cohorts in maths in spring 2021, the Covid gap was estimated to be just one month in summer 2021, suggesting that so far, efforts to support education recovery have been effective in maths.

For Year 2 pupils, the Covid gap in reading and maths was three and two months respectively in spring 2021. In summer 2021, Year 2 children were still two months behind in reading but had recovered to above expected standards in maths.

Dr Ben Styles, head of Classroom Practice and Workforce at NFER said: “Our research illustrates the challenges faced by pupils, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, over the last 20 months. We are, however, now seeing the first encouraging signs of recovery – especially in maths.

“Significant and sustained investment will be required to enable children to fully recover – both in academic terms and in terms of their wellbeing and mental health, and we will continue to monitor the government’s commitment to deliver on its recovery pledge.”

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