School closures likely to reverse attainment gap progress

The Education Endowment Foundation has claimed that school closures as a result of the coronavirus outbreak will likely reverse the progress made in narrowing the educational attainment gap since 2011.

Over the past decade, the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their classmates at the end of primary school is estimated to have narrowed, from 11.5 months in 2009 to 9.2 months in 2019. This is according to the Education Policy Institute.

However, EEF's analysis finds that this progress could be undone. Following a rapid evidence review looking at the impact on the attainment gap as a result of different kinds of school closures (eg, summer holidays, adverse weather, natural disasters) it concludes that school closures as a result of coronavirus will widen the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers, likely reversing the progress made since 2011.

Crucially though, if steps are taken, the negative impact of school closures on the gap could be eased. Steps could be the newly Online Tuition Pilot which will tutoring to up to 1,600 pupils in disadvantaged communities. The initiative is led by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), Sutton Trust, Impetus and Nesta.

Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust and chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: “As today’s analysis shows, school closures are likely to have a devastating impact on the poorest children and young people. The attainment gap widens when children are not in school. There is strong evidence that high-quality tuition is a cost-effective way to enable pupils to catch up. I’m pleased our new online tuition project will support 1,600 pupils in schools across the country.”

Professor Becky Francis, CEO of the Education Endowment Foundation, added: “The evidence is clear that children learn less when they are not in school. Our analysis today highlights that this particularly impacts those from disadvantaged backgrounds and widens the attainment gap. But there are practical steps we can take to minimise the size of the gaps that are opening up – both while pupils are learning remotely, and as they begin to return to school. Catch-up tuition to complement the expertise of classroom teachers and support those who have fallen furthest behind will be essential and we hope our new online tuition pilot will offer practical help to both schools and pupils at this time.”