Year 1 pupils saw biggest drop in learning due to Covid - with reading, writing and maths all affected

Friday, 12th February 2021, 2:52 pm
Updated Friday, 12th February 2021, 2:53 pm
Year 1 children in England have been found to have experienced the greatest drop in their learning, according to a new report (Photo: Shutterstock)

Year 1 children in England have been found to have experienced the greatest drop in their learning due to the Covid pandemic, according to a new report.

The Juniper Education National Dataset Report analysed the impact of disruption caused by the pandemic on primary school children, examining teacher assessment data from more than 6,000 primary schools across the country, representing a total of 1.47 million pupils.

The analysis looked at the percentage of pupils from Year 1 to 6, either achieving or exceeding what is expected for their age - known as age related expectations - in reading, writing and maths, in comparison to pre-pandemic levels.

The report found that all year groups have struggled to reach age related expectations due to the pandemic, but that those in Year 1 in particular have experienced the most significant drop.

Year 1 experienced greatest drop in learning due to pandemic

The report found that the number of children in Years 2 to 6 who were achieving at or above the standard expected for their age dropped by approximately one fifth between autumn 2019 and summer 2020.

However, the study also found that the pandemic disrupted the progress of Year 1 pupils more than any other group, with the percentage of children achieving at or above expectations falling by around a quarter.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, 82 per cent of Year 1 pupils achieved age related expectations in reading, 79 per cent in writing and 83 per cent in maths.

However, by the summer term of 2020 this had dropped to 60 per cent in reading, 54 per cent in writing and 59 per cent in maths.

The report also found that there was a more pronounced drop in disadvantaged pupils than for their non-disadvantaged peers, with Year 1 also worst affected in regards to this.

The analysis found that by summer 2020 across all primary year groups, only 43 per cent of disadvantaged pupils had met age related expectations for reading, in comparison with 63 per cent of non-disadvantaged groups.

For writing, this figure was 36 per cent compared to 55 per cent, and 41 per cent in comparison to 61 per cent for maths.

‘We must know which children have suffered the most from the pandemic’

The report also looked at assessment data for the period when children went back to school full time - from September to December 2020 - and found that recovery was slower for younger children.

SEN children and disadvantaged pupils were also found to struggle more, which suggests “a special focus needs to be placed on these groups as all pupils return to school after lockdown 3.0,” the Juniper report said.

Report author and former primary head, Stephan Nicholls, who works as an education consultant for Juniper Education, said: “To put an effective recovery plan in place, we must know which children have suffered the most from the pandemic.

“This report will help those that work in education understand where the greatest learning losses are so they can effectively direct their teaching when the school gates are fully open again.”