Pupils eligible for pupil premium disproportionately affected by Covid-19 school closures, as attainment gap increases
New data ontest resultsin maths, reading, grammar, punctuation and spelling show that attainment has dropped across all subjects and year groups in 2020. The data on over 250,000 primary school pupils across England is based on widely used tests by RS Assessment from Hodder Education, with insights provided by education data analytics company SchoolDash. The tests show the most significant decreases in maths papers, while Year 3 and 2 pupils faced the steepest drop-off of any cohort.
The data shows an average standardised score decline of 8 points in maths, 6.3 in reading and 7.2 in grammar, punctuation and spelling across all pupils compared to 2019 data, with greater reductions seen for pupil premium eligible pupils. This is a stark contrast to the average annual gains of 0.5 points since the current curriculum began in 2016. The tests were scheduled to take place during the summer term; however, pupils sat them four months later, at the beginning of this autumn term, due to the school closures.
Students eligible for the pupil premium face steepest attainment drop
The attainment gap between pupils eligible for pupil premium and those who are not has widened significantly. Across all three standardised subject papers offered by RS Assessment and all six year-groups, those eligible for pupil premium experienced a steeper decline in standardised scores than other pupils. There are also considerable differences by school type. Those with higher levels of deprivation, situated in urban areas or located in the north or midlands, tended to show more significant declines.
Among Year 2 pupils – who are between six and seven years old – those eligible for pupil premium dropped by an additional 2.4 points compared with their peers in maths, and an additional 2.3 points in reading. Pupil premium eligible pupils in Year 6 were most affected in grammar, punctuation and spelling, dropping an additional 1.4 points beyond their classmates.
The least difference between pupils eligible for pupil premium and others were seen in Year 3 maths, a difference of 0.8 points; Year 5 reading at 0.5 points; and Year 4 grammar, punctuation and spelling, where pupil premium eligible pupils were just 0.6 points behind their peers.
Biggest attainment drops across all pupils
Beyond the significant overall drops in subjects, notable differences were also seen between topics within subjects. For example, attainment in fractions was affected more than number, while punctuation fared worse than spelling.
In maths, fractions and geometry topics were the most affected, with attainment dropping by 14 percent across all year groups. Meanwhile, operations and statistics dropped by 12 percent, measures by 9 percent, and number by 8 percent.
In the grammar, punctuation and spelling tests, punctuation was hardest hit with an average 14 percent drop in attainment. Grammar followed closely behind, dropping 13 percent, followed by vocabulary at 11 percent and spelling at 10 percent.
For the reading tests, comprehension dropped by 10 percent across all years, while inference decreased by 9 percent and Language, Structure and Presentation (LSP) by 10 percent. The Year 1s taking the Reception paper also showed concerning drops in attainment. Comprehension scores decreased an average of 15 percent, phonics attainment dropped by 16 percent and Reading for Meaning (RFM) lost 14 percent.
Katie Blainey, Publishing Director at RS Assessment, says: “This year, more than ever, it is important we use every resource we have to quickly understand what impact school closures may have had on attainment across the country. By providing this detailed analysis of primary test results from the first six weeks of the autumn term, we hope to provide evidence to help focus support to help those children most affected by the closures. There have clearly been significant impacts on learning, but not all children have been affected equally, so we hope this analysis will help to work towards a fairer start in life for all pupils, regardless of background. That’s a fundamental and guiding principle of the work we do at RS Assessment from Hodder Education, and of each primary school in the country.”
Download the full report here.