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2.5 years into the COVID-19 pandemic still major delays for spelling and mathematics

Five new NCO factsheets

NCO factsheets nov22

The world has been struggling with the effects of COVID-19 for 2.5 years. During this period, schools and students have faced school closures, distance learning and class cancellations. What consequences has this had on the learning growth of Dutch students? The Netherlands Cohort Study on Education (NCO), an initiative of the Netherlands Initiative for Education Research (NRO), takes stock.

Key findings

The NCO analyses reveal that, over the entire COVID-19 period of 2.5 years, there is still a large, incremental delay in learning growth for spelling and mathematics. The largest delay is observed among current grade 6 students. The previously observed differences between students by parental education have generally narrowed. The largest delay in learning growth is visible among students with highly educated parents, where in earlier factsheets this concerned students with low-educated parents. The previously observed delay in learning growth in reading comprehension has been undone on average. For spelling and mathematics, on the other hand, an increasing delay has been seen since the start of the pandemic.

Five new factsheets

The NCO has published five new national factsheets today. The first two factsheets in this new series look at learning growth over a 2.5-year period. These factsheets cover only students who were in early grades of primary education (in grades 1, 2 and 3) at the start of COVID-19. Thus, these students are now in upper primary school. After 2.5 years, a clear effect can still be observed in delay of learning growth of students compared to the years before the pandemic.

In the other three factsheets, for students in grades 2 through 5, the delay in the first full COVID school year (2020/2021), in which the two school closures occurred, is compared to the delay in the second full COVID school year (2021/2022). In the latter year, although there were no more school closures, there were frequent class cancellations and absences due to COVID-19 infections by teachers or students themselves.

Increasing delays in second COVID school year in spelling and math-mathematics

Looking at the two COVID school years separately, the analyses show that the delay in learning growth for spelling and mathematics was higher in the second COVID school year than in the first COVID school year. Students in grade 5 experienced the largest delay in learning growth for both spelling and mathematics in both COVID school years. The delay in learning growth for reading comprehension was observable in the first COVID school year, but no longer in the second full COVID school year.

Vulnerable students less delay in second COVID school year

Several student characteristics appear to relate to the delay in learning growth. In the first COVID school year, students from low-income families and students with low-educated parents were more delayed in learning growth. In the second COVID school year, it was precisely students from high-income families and students with highly educated parents who were more delayed.

Disparities between schools persist

There is more delay for students in small schools in both COVID school years for spelling and mathematics than for students in middle sized and large schools. In addition, delay in the second COVID school year is largest for students in non-urban areas.

>> More information via Prof. Carla Haelermans, Project leader NCO: carla.haelermans@maastrichtuniversity.nl

Factsheets [in Dutch]

>> More about the NCO factsheets: https://www.nationaalcohortonderzoek.nl/factsheets-leergroei


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