Impact of Covid-19 disruptions in primary schools: attainment gaps and school responses

This descriptive study focuses on primary schools in England. It aims to quantify changes in attainment gaps since the onset of Covid-19. It also describes the responses of teachers and schools to the challenges of Covid-19 and explores associations between school responses and changes in attainment gaps. This study focused specifically on differences in attainment gaps and does not aim to quantify overall differences in learning between pupils impacted by Covid and previous year groups.

The first report for the project was published in May 2021. Two follow on reports will be published in July 2021 and September 2021, following additional assessments taken in the spring and summer terms 2021. 


Key Stage 1, Key Stage 2

Key stage

EEF Summary

The first study finds that disadvantage gaps for primary maths have widened since Autumn 2019. Between Autumn 2019 and Autumn 2020, the gap in maths widened by between 10% and 24%. During the Autumn term there was no evidence that this gap narrowed. This seems to indicate that while disadvantaged pupils suffered disproportionate harms to learning during the first national lockdown, they have not received disproportionate improvements to learning after returning to school. The study did not detect and increase in the disadvantage gap for reading.

The study did not find associations between different school responses to remote learning and changes to the attainment gaps in English or maths (e.g. the use of live or recorded lessons, or frequency of work submission). In Autumn term there was some tentative evidence that providing live lessons to absent pupils was associated with reductions in the attainment gap. 

Evaluation info





Key Stage

Key Stage 1

Start date

September 2020

End date

May 2022

Type of trial

School Choices

  1. Updated: 30th June, 2021

    Printable project summary

    1 MB pdf - EEF-covid-19-disruptions-in-primary-schools-attainment-gaps-and-school-responses.pdf

  2. Updated: 30th June, 2021

    Study Plan (amended)

    510 KB pdf - EEF_Covid_Partial_Closure_Impact_Response_4.1_clean.pdf

  3. Updated: 7th December, 2020

    Study Plan

    496 KB pdf - EEF_Covid_Partial_Closure_Impact_Response_3.1.pdf

  4. Updated: 6th May, 2021

    Evaluation Report: Covid-19 disruptions - Attainment gaps and primary responses

    2 MB pdf - Covid-19_disruptions_attainment_gaps_and_primary_school_responses_-_May_2021.pdf