The Education Endowment Foundation is funding three different studies that will look at the impact of nursery and school closures on children’s learning.
The aim is to provide greater understanding of the strategies schools put in place to support pupils throughout coronavirus closures, and the impact of these approaches on the disadvantage gap.
One project will assess the impact of lockdown on the school readiness of new Reception children across England and their educational attainment and socio-emotional well-being during their first year at school.
The team will be led by the University of York with the NIESR and EPI.
Separately, the National Foundation for Educational Research will assess the extent to which Key Stage 1 pupils’ attainment in reading and maths has been impacted by school closures, and particularly the effect on disadvantaged pupils.
This research will involve 158 schools providing detailed information on the types of support individual pupils are receiving this year, as well as whole-school strategies – such as small-group work, tutoring, parental engagement – which will be important in trying to understanding the impact of different responses for disadvantaged groups.
A third project led by FFT aims to provide the earliest robust estimate of the change in the disadvantage gap pre- and post-lockdown, as well as analysing strategies associated with mitigating a widening gap, focused on pupils in Years 2 to 6 in 145 primary schools.
These studies will also examine successful learning support strategies implemented by schools during and after lockdown.
In June, the EEF published a rapid evidence assessment, which concluded that school closures will have reversed a decade’s progress in closing the disadvantage gap.
The EEF said that the unprecedented circumstances of Covid-19 mean the evidence base remains limited.
These new studies aim to help address that evidence gap, providing robust estimates of the changes to the disadvantage gap among primary-age children, as well as uniquely detailed information on how schools are supporting pupils’ wellbeing and learning this academic year.
Professor Becky Francis, chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), said, ‘Covid-19 closures of schools and nurseries have highlighted once again the complex challenges in tackling educational disadvantage, and the extraordinary efforts of educators to respond.
‘This new research has two important aims. First, to better understand the extent to which the attainment gap is likely to have widened in the past six months. Secondly, to identify what approaches schools and teachers are taking to support their pupils to come back stronger – and which of these hold the greatest promise for improved learning and well-being outcomes for children.
‘As ever, our focus is on providing schools with practical evidence they are able to apply in their context and which will have particular benefit for disadvantaged pupils. In addition, we are providing practical support through our partnerships with other charities to lead the National Tutoring Programme, as well as training, resources and partnership through our national network of Research Schools.’