Chief Executive’s Letter: Practical and evidence-based - our new tools to support schools and parents through the Covid-19 crisis

All of us in education hold a shared concern for the impact that the closure of schools, nurseries and colleges is likely to have on the learning of disadvantaged children and young people.

The widening attainment gap: how do we respond?

Over the past decade, the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their classmates at the end of primary school has narrowed, reflecting the hard work of teachers and senior leaders across the country. Our initial analysis, based on what we know about the impact of summer learning loss on disadvantaged pupils, is that this progress will be at the very least reversed by the combination of economic hardship and school closures caused by Covid-19.

The EEF is developing a response to this crisis based around the following framework:

  • Mitigation to limit the negative impact on disadvantaged pupils while schools are closed;
  • Compensation to support disadvantaged pupils to bounce back when schools re-open.

There are some essential first steps with mitigation, such as ensuring that all pupils have access to access to devices and a good internet connection, shown to be an especial issue for disadvantaged households. 

We welcome the government announcement at the weekend of new measures to widen access to learning at home. Likewise, it is terrific to see the launch of national initiatives to support schools and families during lockdown, including Oak National Academy and BBC programming.

New EEF resources: supporting schools and parents make the most of home learning

 To support these efforts, we’ve this week published a set of new resources designed to be used by schools and parents to make the most of home learning.

All are highly practical, developed by our EEF Content Specialist team, who are current school leaders who understand the significant challenges facing schools. And, of course, they are firmly grounded in the best available evidence, drawing on the recommendations from our guidance reports:

  • Support resources for schools – tools to help support home learning and maximise the impact of work set. Including tips for communicating with parents, suggested text messages and emails, and questions for senior leaders to reflect on when setting home learning – particularly with vulnerable learners in mind.
  • Support resources to share with parents – clear advice and tips schools can share with parents, such as the brilliant TRUST technique to support shared reading and extended talk, and a handy animation and checklist for building good home learning routines.

Support resources for schools

Support resources for schools

Tools for schools to help support home learning and maximise the impact of work set.

Best evidence on supporting students to learn remotely

We have also published a rapid evidence assessment examining the existing research (from 60 systematic reviews and meta-analyses) for approaches that schools could use, or are already using, to support the learning of pupils during school closures.

There are some really important messages within it – in particular, that teaching quality is more important than how lessons are delivered. For example, teachers might explain a new idea live or via a pre-recorded video. But what matters most is whether the explanation builds clearly on pupils’ prior learning.

While nothing can replace the individual relationships between a teacher and their pupils in the classroom, our evidence review does highlight some key steps that schools can take to make sure home learning is as effective as possible.

One strategy is to encourage peer interaction between pupils. Another focuses on getting pupils to reflect on their learning and the progress they’re making. These are important both to increasing motivation and improving outcomes, and are likely to be especially important for disadvantaged pupils at this time. 

Support resources to share with parents

Support resources to share with parents

Resources to share with parents on how to support home routines.

Finally: looking ahead to helping schools and pupils to bounce back

Our new resources are part of a huge collective effort across the sector, which we hope will go some way to alleviating the impact of school closures on the most disadvantaged pupils. 

I want to pay warm tribute to my colleagues here at the EEF – and many others who’ve supported us, including our wonderful network of 40 Research Schools across the country – for bringing these together so quickly and professionally.

Looking beyond this immediate period towards the ‘compensation’ phase, we need to focus on how best to help pupils (and indeed teachers) bounce back when schools open again. 

Catch-up teaching targeted especially at those who have fallen furthest behind during this period will be essential. We are working with a range of partners and funders on some exciting plans and I look forward to updating you on these soon.