Lockdown attainment gap could take a year to close

57% of UK teaching staff think it could take up to 12 months to counteract the disruption caused by the pandemic

It could take a year to address the attainment gap caused by the coronavirus lockdown, a new school survey has found.

According to a study of 1,000 teachers and classroom support staff at both primary and secondary levels, conducted by Operam Education Group, more than half (57%) of participants felt it would take a considerable portion of time for students to catch up, with just 27% of respondents estimating a three- to six-month recovery in comparison.

On top of this, the survey revealed that 54% of teaching staff think current curriculum is no longer fit for purpose, largely due to the rapid digital transition spurred by the outbreak.

“In unprecedented times, maintaining education for pupils has been a huge challenge, requiring teachers to adapt quickly to online learning, leaving some of the most disadvantaged children even further behind,” said Eddie Austin, CEO of Operam Education Group.

“The research shows the impact of the learning hiatus will not be fixed overnight and more needs to be done around key areas such as the relationship between teachers and parents, the part technology has to play in learning and the structure of the current curriculum.”

The study also showed that 75% of teachers feel the lockdown has led to either reduced or significantly reduced standards, with 62% stating that the pandemic had accentuated the digital divide for the most disadvantaged students. A further 57% cited the need for increased focus on supporting early years attainment – more so than any other facet of the sector.

“The widening attainment gap amongst the most disadvantaged pupils of society and the fall in standards across mainstream pupils evidences the value for face-to-face teaching,” says Michael Shepherd, managing director of Success for All UK – a charity that conducted the research in conjunction with Operam Education Group.

“We believe that positive relationships between home and school are a powerful indicator of successful learning and that teaching in the classroom is key to reducing the inevitably widening attainment gap,” added Shepherd. “Amongst the many aspects of education in need of review, the core areas highlighted in this survey certainly warrant further discourse.”

The findings come as education secretary Gavin Williamson promises an additional £650m to help UK schools supplement learning. The cash injection forms part of a £1bn package, and includes a separate £350m in subsidies for a one-year national tutoring programme, aimed at helping the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children by offering low-cost tuition for schools.

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