- 2 min read

The balance after one year of COVID-19 crisis in primary education: learning losses due to first school closure partly undone, but difference between pupils remains

Second series of NCO factsheets

nco factsheets

Primary school pupils still show a delay in learning growth, but part of their delay caused by the first school closure has been caught up. However, a gap remains between pupils from different socio-economic backgrounds. This is evident from research by scientists based on the National Cohort Study (NCO) of the National Regieorgaan Onderwijsonderzoek. The database contains data from pupil monitoring systems of 1600 Dutch primary schools. They come up with new figures as a result of a full year of the COVID-19 crisis, in which schools in primary education had to close down twice.

Still slow learning progress

In all three domains of mathematics, spelling and reading comprehension the learning growth is still lower than in the previous years. Especially for reading comprehension the delay in learning progress is still large (19% lower). In spelling and mathematics, the difference is smaller (7% and 9% respectively).

Vulnerable pupils still hit hardest

The latest figures, collected in three factsheets, show that vulnerable pupils are still hit hardest. Dr Carla Haelermans is national coordinator of the NCO and involved in the study from the Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA) at Maastricht University. She explains: "The learning delay in spelling and mathematics among pupils with a low socio-economic status is now one and a half to two times as great as among pupils from higher socio-economic backgrounds. That difference has even increased after one year of corona crisis than after the first lockdown."

Migration background no longer plays a role

What is surprising is that, in addition to the differences by socio-economic status, there are hardly any more differences by migration background in the delay in learning growth. "Where children from non-Western migration backgrounds were more delayed in learning growth during the first lockdown, this was completely corrected afterwards. This lag is now no longer present."

More delays in small schools and in non-urban areas

Most schools show a lower absolute learning growth in the last COVID year than in the two years before. The proportion of schools with lower learning growth varies from three quarters of schools in reading comprehension to more than 95% of schools in spelling and mathematics. The analysis further shows that pupils in schools with more pupils of low socio-economic status have more delays in learning growth. Schools in non-urban areas and small schools also had extra delays in learning progress in spelling and mathematics, compared to schools in urban areas and large(er) schools.

National Cohort Study Education for and by schools

The National Cohort Study Education (NCO) builds a bridge between the education field and the research field. It reduces the research pressure on schools and ensures that reliable research can still be carried out. At the same time, it provides more useful data and insights to schools. The NCO is an initiative of the National Regieorgaan Educational Research.

Factsheets [in Dutch]

back to overview