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It will take six to 12 months to close the attainment gap created by school closures during lockdown, an education survey has found.

According to the research of 1,000 teachers and classroom support staff, more than half (57%) of respondents said it would take a significant amount of time for children to catch up, with 27% of those surveyed taking a slightly more optimistic view – estimating a three to six-month recovery.

The overall sense of longitudinal impact of school closures sat at odds with Government insight which initially mooted the idea of summer school and longer school days to address the attainment gap. The survey also found that 54% of teachers and support staff no longer feel that the current curriculum fits the needs of pupils, because of the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eddie Austin is chief executive officer of Operam Education Group, which conducted the research in conjunction with education intervention charity, Success for All UK. He said: “In unprecedented times, maintaining education for pupils has been a huge challenge, requiring teachers to adapt quickly to online learning, leaving some of the most disadvantaged children even further behind. The research shows the impact of the learning hiatus will not be fixed overnight and more needs to be done around key areas such as the relationship between teachers and parents, the part technology has to play in learning and the structure of the current curriculum.”

The survey – carried out amongst respondents in both primary and secondary education – showed that an overwhelming 75% of teachers felt that home learning during lockdown had led to reduced or very reduced standards, with 62% indicating that the attainment gap for the poorest pupils in society had widened significantly. In addition, 57% agreed that there needed to be a focus on providing a sound base of attainment in early years, more than any other education sector.

Michael Shepherd, managing director at Success for All UK, said: “The widening attainment gap amongst the most disadvantaged pupils of society and the fall in standards across mainstream pupils evidences the value of face-to-face teaching.

“We believe that positive relationships between home and school are a powerful indicator of successful learning and that teaching in the classroom is key to reducing the inevitably widening attainment gap. Amongst the many aspects of education in need of review, the core areas highlighted in this survey certainly warrant further discourse.”

The joint research comes as education secretary, Gavin Williamson, promised an extra £650 million to schools in England to help pupils catch up on learning. The funding, part of a £1 billion package, will also include a separate £350 million in subsidies for a one-year national tutoring programme. This is aimed at helping the most disadvantaged children in their education, by offering low-cost tuition for schools to purchase.

Download the full survey

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