Lockdown pupils are three months behind

2 September 2020

Teachers estimate that their pupils are three months behind in their learning, according to a new report by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER).

Jointly funded by Nuffield Foundation and NFER, the study is based on a weighted sample of almost 3000 school leaders and teachers across over 2200 mainstream primary and secondary schools in England.

Available at https://www.nfer.ac.uk/media/4119/schools_responses_to_covid_19_the_challenges_facing_schools_and_pupils_in_september_2020.pdf, “The challenges facing schools and pupils in September 2020” is part of a larger research project focusing on schools’ responses to Covid-19.

It follows an earlier NFER survey of schools’ responses to Covid-19 in May (which can be found at https://www.nfer.ac.uk/media/4097/schools_responses_to_covid_19_key_findings_from_the_wave_1_survey.pdf.

Key findings

In the latest report, nearly all teachers (98%) report that their pupils are behind where they would normally expect them to be in their curriculum learning. They estimate that their pupils are three months behind, on average, with 21% reporting that boys have fallen further behind normal expectations than girls.

In July, teachers had covered, on average, only 66% of the usual curriculum during the 2019/20 academic year. Based on teacher estimates, the learning gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers had increased by 46%.

Pupil and parental engagement with remote learning remained low during July, alongside low attendance from pupils eligible for return (56%). There was lower attendance among pupils eligible for the Pupil Premium (45%) and those from BAME backgrounds (49%).

Almost one third (32%) of school leaders highlighted parental concerns over safety as a common reason for non-attendance.

Three-quarters of teachers (74%) did not feel able to teach to their usual standard under the regulations that were in force. In an open response questions, almost half said that distancing requirements had negatively impacted their teaching practices.


The report outlines a series of recommendations, which include: the need for increased parental reassurance; support for schools in managing non-attendance; additional resources for costs associated with managing the demands of Covid-19; the need for Ofsted to modify expectations for schools in upcoming inspections; and schools needing more government support to prepare for remote learning in a local lockdown.