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New research outlines the impact of COVID on child learning

The Education Endowment Fund has published new research demonstrating the adverse impact of the pandemic on the learning of young children.

The major piece of research commissioned by the EEF and conducted by a team from University of York, National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) and the Education Policy Institute (EPI), found that four- and five-year-olds were less likely to meet the expected levels of development in 2021 than before the pandemic, with parents and schools reporting that children’s personal-social and emotional development, language, literacy, and numeracy skills had been affected.

Using a sample of Early Years Foundation Stage data, the researchers assessed the impact of the pandemic on the development of children who were in Reception class for the school year that ran from 2020 – 21.

They found that the proportion of children in their sample reaching the expected levels in all areas – communication and language, physical development, literacy, maths, and personal, social and emotional development – was 59% in 2021, compared to 72% for the 2019 cohort. This difference is equivalent to, on average, three more children in every classroom not reaching the expected levels by the end of the school year.

Sir Peter Lampl, chair of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and of the Sutton Trust, said:

“It is deeply concerning to see the wide-ranging impacts that the pandemic has had on the development of the youngest children. The early years are vital for social mobility as this is where gaps in outcomes first begin to take hold.

In light of today’s evidence, fair access to high quality early years provision is more important than ever. We must ensure we are recruiting, retaining and developing the best staff in the early years, especially in the poorest areas.

If the government are to meet their rightfully ambitious targets on numeracy and literacy by 2030, there needs to be a concerted focus on the early years. Making our school system fairer must start with giving every child the foundation to succeed.”

Read the full report here