Impact of school closures on the attainment gap: rapid evidence assessment

Organisation(s): Education Endowment Foundation

Date: 2020

Pages: 26 p.


This rapid evidence assessment aimed to examine the potential impact of school closures on the attainment gap, based on a systematic search of existing literature. Eleven studies were identified that provided quantitative evidence about the impact of school closures on attainment gaps. A subset of nine studies provided comparable estimates that could be synthesised. Although the search included school closures with a range of causes (including due to adverse weather, hurricanes, teacher industrial action and pandemics) the final group of robust estimates all came from studies of summer holidays for primary-aged children. The projections suggest that school closures will widen the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers, likely reversing progress made to narrow the gap since 2011. Pupils can learn through remote teaching. However, ensuring the elements of effective teaching are present - for example through clear explanations, scaffolding and feedback - is more important than how or when lessons or support are provided. It is highly likely that the gap will have widened when pupils return to school, even if the strongest possible mitigatory steps are put in place. Catch-up provision, including assessment of lost learning and targeted support, will be essential. However, it is unlikely that a single catch-up strategy will be sufficient to compensate for lost learning due to school closures. There is a risk that high levels of absence after schools formally reopen poses a particular risk for disadvantaged pupils.

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