Research School Network: A Blog about puddles on the pitch– what does new research on the impact of the pandemic on learning mean for schools? A blog by Sadie Thompson, Deputy Director of HISP Research School

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A Blog about puddles on the pitch– what does new research on the impact of the pandemic on learning mean for schools?

A blog by Sadie Thompson, Deputy Director of HISP Research School

New research from the EEF (‘The Impact of COVID-19 on Learning: A review of the evidence’
available here) seems to confirm what teachers across the country had feared, that the pandemic
has adversely affected young children’s development, but what does that mean for us as classroom
teachers and school leaders?
Anecdotally at least, this will come as no surprise, as staffrooms, Twitter, and Facebook groups have
long reported on the challenges faced by children and young people as we have returned from and
then re-entered numerous lockdowns, both nationally and in our individual schools dependent on
case numbers. The research, commissioned by the EEF and carried out by the University of York,
Education Policy Institute and National Institute of Economic and Social Research, focussed on
reception children and attainment at Early Years Foundation Stage. The key findings report that the
pandemic has negatively affected all pupils and increased the attainment gap between
disadvantaged pupils and their peers. Concerningly, whilst recovery was noted by the end of
summer 2021 once pupils had returned from national lockdowns, the attainment of those pupils
compared with previous cohorts was lower. Furthermore, although difficult to evidence, the report
acknowledges growing teacher concern for pupil wellbeing and mental health. Whilst there is less
evidence available for the impact of the pandemic on secondary aged pupils at present, I’m inclined
to believe results wouldn’t be too dissimilar.
What we have now is clear indicators of where the deficits are and who is adversely affected, with
the attainment gap for disadvantaged pupils wider than ever, an increase of 0.51 month on
average. We must stick to our core principles: High quality teaching and learning, supporting
children and pupils with additional needs and targeting any interventions appropriately, and building
strong working relationships with pupils and parents. More information can be found in the new EEF
Moving forwards, making a difference: A planning guide for schools 202223’ School planning
support 2022 – 23 | EEF (educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk) .What is encouraging is that we
already have a wealth of evidence and expertise in these key areas ready to go and many schools are
already some way down the road to implementing change in these key areas and seeing results.
What we must be careful of is using these findings to justify lowering our expectations. There is
always a tendency to be cautious as classroom teachers, to lower predicted grades a little, to not set
the bar too high just in case’, and these findings could well serve as a handy get-out-of-jail-free
card’ for those accountability measures that seem to prey down on us. Yes, these children and young
people were affected by the pandemic but what is unique about this scenario is that all children and
young people, and indeed teaching and support staff were too. We are all in this together and it is
important to remember that… it really is a level playing field, even if there are a few puddles on the
pitch.

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