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School children missed out on third of learning time amid pandemic

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Dr Lee Elliot Major

Dr Lee Elliot Major

Dr Lee Elliot Major

Pupils in Northern Ireland have missed out on a third of their learning time amid Covid-19 - even when home lessons are taken into account, a study suggests.

Around 61 days of schooling were lost here in a 12-month period, it estimated.

Researchers from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and the University of Exeter found that the poorest pupils suffered larger learning losses than their richer peers amid the pandemic.

Considering learning undertaken at home and in the classroom, the analysis suggests pupils in England on average lost 61 days of schooling between March 2020 and April 2021. The usual school year is 190 days.

Larger average losses occurred in Scotland (64 days) and Wales (66 days). Here it was 61 days.

The report suggests that the poorest pupils in England lost 34.9% of their learning during the second round of school closures in 2021 - less than the most affluent pupils in the rest of the UK who lost 38.6% of learning time.

Researchers calculated the education loss by assessing school opening and closure dates, official school attendance figures, and data on daily learning rates (combining home and classroom learning) reported by parents.

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Lee Elliot Major, professor of social mobility at the University of Exeter and report co-author, said: "Our analysis reveals that pupils' learning loss varies between the four home nations, partly due to historical differences in school term times and partly as a result of school closure policies.

"This shows that ministers can make a difference - but quick action is needed."

LSE professor Stephen Machin, CEP director and co-author of the report, said: "Even a few days extra learning loss can have a large impact on educational achievement and life outcomes, and these are big losses of around 60-65 days.

"Learning losses suffered during the pandemic are manifested in stark gaps in attainment between children from poorer backgrounds and their more privileged counterparts, which is likely to cause a significant decline in social mobility for younger generations."

A UK Government spokesperson said: "We have committed to an ambitious, and long-term education recovery plan, including an investment to date of over £3 billion and a significant expansion of our tutoring programme, to support children and young people to make up for learning lost during the pandemic."


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