After a long stint of remote learning, online tutoring, and self-learning, in-person learning is a new experience for many of the youngest children in the UK.
We're only just beginning to uncover the extent to which the disruption of their formative years has impacted their education. Research is underway in every area from halted social skills and capacity for rule-following, to retention, and the ability to concentrate.
But this isn't to say that remote learning has been all bad. Young children have demonstrated advanced computer skills compared to previous groups. And schools have modernised by normalising online tuition through an accelerated digital transformation process.
But what are the hidden long-term effects of large online classes, lockdown restrictions, and Covid homeschooling?
And how can we mitigate the impact of the pandemic on primary school age children's education?
According to a study by Juniper, before 2020, 79% of year 1 pupils achieved their expected age-related milestones in writing. Test scores increased even further for reading, at 82%, and 83% in maths.
By the 2020 summer term, age-related achievements had dropped to 60%, 54%, and 59%, for writing, reading and arithmetic respectively.
Learning loss isn't just falling in the UK; this is a worldwide trend. Researchers at Oxford's Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science reported that children in the Netherlands learned 'little or nothing' during school closures.
Teachers and parents have also voiced concern for the mental health of children of all ages. Without structure, external stimulation, and socialisation, children haven't learned the coping techniques required to deal with real-world challenges.
We also can't ignore how these figures vary across different home setups and geographic locations.
Key workers' children were able to stay in school. However, primary school children often struggled to engage where teachers had to deliver hybrid online and in-person teaching to 30+ students.
Many parents who had to homeschool were faced with childcare and equipment challenges. Guardians also had to invest time to find a tutor and learn a new curriculum alongside ever-changing economic and employment situations.
Younger school years are also recovering slower than older primary school children. Educational research showed that the increase in learning loss for children in Key Stage 1 was much higher than for children in Key Stage 2.
The NFER also reported: "year 2 pupils had significantly lower achievement in both reading and maths in autumn 2020 when compared to performance seen in year 2 in the autumn term of 2017."
If children are struggling to catch up now, it's concerning that the gap will only widen as they continue in education.
Across schools, learning loss has occurred within almost every subject. Core subjects - spelling, reading and maths - have been impacted dramatically, with maths seeing the highest learning loss.
A report by the Department for Education showed learning loss in mathematics increased from -0.9 in 2020 to a significant -3.2 in 2021.
Official bodies have seldom studied the change in ability in subjects like science, history, and arts. As such, the learning loss in these areas could be even more significant. Learning loss in non-core subjects is especially likely where school's ‘catch-up curriculums’ have reduced learning hours. This is most commonly impacting art, history, and music.
A glimmer of hope comes from the fact that children have improved their computer skills rapidly compared to previous years, offering new learning opportunities.
Some children will close the learning gap over the next year. But increasingly, parents are turning to specialised learning. When we surveyed teachers, we found that 38.2% had received increased demand to work as a tutor outside of school.
Bringing in external expertise through a primary school tutor can bridge specific learning gaps and help children to build upon their innate skills and gifts. Online lessons with a qualified teacher provide clear structure and authority, leading to less resistance than self-learning or parent teaching.
Say your child is a gifted book-worm, but they have struggled in maths and science - a tutor can focus on these subjects to provide more efficient and effective studying.
If you’re concerned about skills gaps for specific subjects in your child’s education, Accelerate Tutors can help. Our tutors are fully qualified teachers available at accessible prices. For more information on how we can help, please get in touch at [email protected]