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CEP Covid-19 analysis

Learning loss since lockdown: variation across the home nations

Empirical analysis of secondary microdata, bespoke social mobility surveys and administrative school attendance data reveal the extent of learning losses that have evolved in the four nations of the UK over the year of the pandemic. They are sizable in all four nations, with a common feature of disadvantaged pupils suffering particularly large losses during two periods of school closures, the durations of which varied across the home nations. Between March 2020 and April 2021, the following maximum number of classroom days were lost over one calendar year: 110 days (England); 119 days (Northern Ireland); 119 days (Scotland); 124 days (Wales). These compare to a full year during normal times of 190 classroom days. Considering learning undertaken at home and in the classroom, pupils in England lost 61 days of schooling. Larger average losses occurred in Scotland (64 days) and Wales (66 days), while pupils in Northern Ireland also lost 61 days. The differences across the nations arise both because of variations in learning loss at home, and due to education policy differences (both historical differences in term times and from specific policy choices during the pandemic). Rising school absences in June/July 2021 once prompt discussion about credible policies to address learning losses. Survey responses reveal that 53 percent of 10,000 adults support extending the school day, while seven in ten respondents support allowing greater flexibility for pupils to repeat a whole school year.

Lee Elliot Major, Andrew Eyles and Stephen Machin

7 July 2021     Paper Number CEPCOVID-19-023

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This CEP Covid-19 analysis is published under the centre's Education and skills programme.