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Underprivileged students in England lag behind in catching up with Covid learning | Schools

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Students across England have recovered their learning lost during the Covid pandemic, but concerns remain about the deteriorating performance of disadvantaged high school students, according to new research released by the Department of Education.

The results show a national trend for recovery in reading and math, especially among elementary school students, when comparing results between fall, spring, and summer this year. But cold spots remain in parts of England and among pupils who were entitled to free school meals.

“Analysis over the course of the academic year suggests that in the absence of disruption to in-person learning, there are signs of recovery,” said Jon Andrews, report co-author and head of the analysis at the Education Policy Institute.

“However, this is far from constant and the recovery has been less pronounced among high school students and the most disadvantaged.”

The study found that after the nationwide lockdown in March, elementary school children were 3.4 months behind in math and 2.2 months behind in reading. But by the end of the summer term in June, their learning decline had narrowed to 2.2 months in math and less than a month in reading, with students returning to school full-time.

While high school students have also seen improvements, their recovery has been slower. In the fall, high school students had lost 1.5 months in reading, and in the summer term, they were still 1.2 months behind on average.

The results for high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds show that they continue to fall behind. Those who were entitled to free school meals were 1.9 months behind in reading in fall 2020 – and by June of that year, that had widened to 2.4 months.

Geoff Barton, secretary general of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the results showed disadvantaged students suffered the most in terms of lost learning and deserved more support from the government.

“These children have suffered the greatest educational disruption since World War II and they need and deserve a much better recovery program.

“Research also reveals that a key factor affecting learning loss may be the length of time that students were absent from school during times when schools were fully open. Unfortunately, high levels of Covid-related absences continue this quarter, so it is absolutely critical that more is done to reduce this disruption, ”Barton said.

The results also revealed “significant” regional differences in the extent of lost learning and speed of recovery.

In one case, primary school pupils in the south-west of England finished the summer slightly ahead in mathematics compared to a normal grade. But their peers in the East and North West Midlands seemed to fall even further behind. The report’s authors cautioned that the small number of students tested regionally meant their estimates were less precise.

A DfE spokesperson said: “It is encouraging to see students start to close the gaps that have opened up over the past 18 months, but we know there is still a lot to do, especially for students. disadvantaged. That’s why this week we announced an additional £ 1.8bn dedicated to supporting young people to recover from the impact of the pandemic. “

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