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Schools unprepared to act on attainment differences say a third of teachers

John Moore, Director, Renaissance

Lockdown has widened the attainment gap for disadvantaged students, says two-thirds of teachers, new research from @RenLearnUK found 

New research from Renaissance, which creates educational software tools to improve outcomes and accelerate learning, reveals the majority of Head Teachers and school teachers (63%) think lockdown has made the attainment gap greater.

Despite this, a third (33%) of teachers also feel their schools are unprepared to act on attainment differences.

The research asked over four hundred (443) senior school leaders, department heads and teachers about their experience of assessing and combatting the attainment gap as schools return to the classroom.

Despite the clear challenges of lockdown, over a third (38%) of teachers did not feel their school was prepared to measure attainment differences when returning to the classroom.

According to Renaissance, teachers must be able to identify the impact of time lost to learning during lockdown so they are able to make informed decisions on how best to effectively support their pupils in catching up by prioritising the most important skills. With disadvantaged children likely to be the ones who have suffered the most over the last few months – due to a lack of electronic devices and internet access – it’s even more important they are given the support they deserve to catch up with their peers.

The most popular methods teachers plan to use to measure the attainment gap are through teacher assessment (84%), regular assessment (71%) and assessment at the end of the first term and end of the academic year (50%).

In light of the potential learning loss due to Covid-19, Renaissance is offering free tools (Focus Skills™) to help teachers’ bridge pupils’ attainment gap. Focus Skills™ were developed alongside detailed Learning Progressions in partnership with the National Foundation for Educational Research. Collectively, they map pupils’ knowledge against the National Curriculum, which together with formative assessment can show teachers areas where gaps have formed in pupils’ learning.

Renaissance believes that teachers can use dedicated Focus Skills Workbooks, which are being made freely available to schools, to plan lessons that support pupils in learning the skills necessary for them to meet the curriculum requirements for their academic year group. These educational tools save teachers time and support them in creating tailored lesson plans, meaning pupils spend more time learning and are given more specific support for their developmental needs.

John Moore, Director, Renaissance said,

“Now more than ever, Renaissance is committed to working with School, Trust and MAT leaders to help make data and insights easy to find, understand and take action on – not just for assessment but to tailor teaching and planning and in order to motivate students. It’s worrying and unfair that disadvantaged children are likely to have had the gap between them and more privileged pupils increase due to no fault of their own. We want to reduce teacher workload by providing them with simple technology that tests, marks and analyses their pupils’ knowledge. With that information, they can focus on what they are really there for – to educate pupils, guide their learning development and plan tailored programmes.”

Natalie Perera, Executive Director, Education Policy Institute said,

“COVID has meant that children have lost several months of critical learning time. For the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children the impact of lost learning time is likely to be greater. We are pleased to work alongside Renaissance on this project. By developing a greater understanding of the impact of Covid-related disruptions on learning, and the teaching methods which support pupils to catch up, we will be better placed to identify strategies and interventions to mitigate against the impact of lost learning in cases of further or prolonged school closures.”

Christine Ivory, Assistant Headteacher at Grove Primary School in Wolverhampton said,

“Our teaching staff were all concerned about the impact of school closures on our pupils’ learning. We have a high proportion of disadvantaged pupils so it felt unfair that lockdown should hinder them more than their peers.

Each of our pupils completed a Renaissance Star test at the beginning of term which allowed us to identify the pupils who were the most affected by the lockdown and offer them further support. Using Focus Skills has helped our teachers to group students by ability which sets a framework to help them tackle any learning loss as efficiently as possible.”

Focus Skills™ have been turned into teacher workbooks that are freely available to schools to provide a roadmap for closing learning gaps, and can be used to support individual, group or class instruction.

About the research: Renaissance conducted online research with Primary and Secondary school senior leaders and subject leaders across the UK and Ireland during 21st September – 5th October 2020. There were 443 respondents to the survey which consisted mainly of Head Teachers (62%), Deputy/Department Heads (12%) and Teachers (11%).

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