Education Endowment Foundation:Impact of COVID-19 disruptions in primary schools: attainment gaps and school responses

Impact of COVID-19 disruptions in primary schools: attainment gaps and school responses

Project info

Independent Evaluator

Education Datalab logo
Education Datalab
Teacher Tapp logo
Teacher Tapp

Assessing the impact of COVID-19 school closures on the attainment gap in maths and reading in primary schools.

Pupils: 2500 Schools: 145
Key Stage: 1, 2 Duration: 1 year(s) 8 month(s) Type of Trial: COVID-19 research
Completed May 2022

This project and its evaluation were affected by the 2020 and 2021 partial school closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, some of the impact measurement collection has not been possible and the evaluation has not been completed as originally intended.

This descriptive, longitudinal study looked at the impact of COVID-19 related closures on the attainment gaps in reading and maths between economically disadvantaged pupils and their peers in Years 2 to 6.

By looking closely at three time periods across 2020 – 2021, the study describes how teachers and schools responded to the challenges of COVID-19. In particular during:

  • the initial closure period’, March to May 2020 when schools were suddenly shifted to remote learning for most pupils;
  • the reopening period’ when pupils returned to schools for the start of the 2020/2021 year; and
  • the second closure period’ from January to March 2021, when a rise in COVID-19 cases meant that schools were again closed to a majority of students.

The project also examined associations between pupil performance and different school and teacher practices both during the period of COVID-19 school closures and on return to school.

  1. The study found that the gap in maths attainment between disadvantaged students and others widened since the COVID-19 pandemic began. This gap increased by approximately 4% to 17% compared to before the pandemic, which is equivalent to about one month’s progress. The largest increase occurred during the initial lockdown period. However, there were no significant changes in the gap for reading attainment.
  2. The study also examined how primary schools adapted to remote learning by considering factors such as contacting students by phone, scheduling, work submission frequency, technology platform usage, and live lessons. The analysis covered two time periods: the first lockdown from March to May 2020 and the second period of partial school closures from January to March 2021. No clear links were found between these factors and changes in the gaps between disadvantaged students and others during either period.
  3. Additionally, the study investigated primary school practices during the autumn term of 2020, including providing videos or live streams for absent students or classes, additional learning time, curriculum reduction, and small group interventions. In general, there were no evident connections between these practices and changes in the gaps between disadvantaged students and others.