Bedford children suffer drop in education attainment through coronavirus pandemic

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Reading, writing, maths and science fell significantly

Young children in Bedford suffered a fall in attainment across all four key subjects at school through the coronavirus pandemic, new figures show.

Across England, attainment levels in state schools for reading, writing, maths and science fell significantly from 2018-19 – the last unaffected year before the pandemic – to 2021-22.

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The Association of School and College Leaders said the figures show the "huge impact" the pandemic has had on children's development and urged the Government to increase funding to meet attainment standards.

Reading, writing, maths and science fell significantlyReading, writing, maths and science fell significantly
Reading, writing, maths and science fell significantly
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Department for Education figures show 66% of 2,212 Key Stage 1 pupils achieved the expected standard in reading assessments last year – down from 73% in 2018-19.

The downward trend was reflected in writing – which fell from 66% to 54% across the same time period – and maths, falling from 73% to 67%.

Attainment in science also fell among young pupils, from 78% in 2018-19 to 73% last year.

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Every area in England with Key Stage 1 pupils and pre-pandemic data saw a fall in attainment in all four subjects.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the figures show "the huge impact the pandemic has had on education".

Mr Barton said: "It is unsurprising that the disruption of the last few years has led to the percentage of pupils meeting the expected standards in reading, writing, maths and science falling."

He also highlighted the widening attainment gap between children from disadvantaged backgrounds – defined as pupils who received free school meals in years 1 or 2, had spent at least one day in local authority care in the last year, or had left local authority care through adoption or other child arrangement orders – and their peers.

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In England, reading and writing attainment fell by 11 and 14 percentage points respectively for disadvantaged pupils during the pandemic.

This was compared to six and 10 for other children across the same period.

Meanwhile, maths performance fell by 10 percentage points from 2018-19 to 2021-22 for disadvantaged children, a much greater drop than the six percentage points for other pupils.

Mr Barton said teachers are "doing everything they can to help all pupils catch up on learning", but urged the Government to address significant challenges they face.

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He said primary school budgets are being stretched, despite the added £4.6 billion in funding for schools across the next two years announced in the autumn statement, meaning they struggle to provide specialised support for individual pupils, and that recruitment and retention of primary teachers is in "crisis".

"If the Government is serious about meeting its attainment targets, it must recognise and address the pressures schools are under and provide the resources and support that are desperately needed," he added.

The Department for Education said it has rolled out its education recovery programme to help children's learning following the pandemic.

A spokesperson said the programme includes nearly three million tutoring courses and £24 million investment to boost literacy skills.