UCL Discovery
UCL home » Library Services » Electronic resources » UCL Discovery

A year of pandemic: managing the impact in Power Maths primary schools in England, 2020-2021

Barrow, Ellen; Golding, Jennie; Grima, Grace; (2021) A year of pandemic: managing the impact in Power Maths primary schools in England, 2020-2021. Presented at: AEA-Europe conference 2021, Online conference. Green open access

[thumbnail of PM AEAe 2021.pptx] Slideshow
PM AEAe 2021.pptx - Published Version

Download (3MB)


Our understanding of the long-term impact of sustained school closures is poor, although there is some evidence it can be significant and impact mathematics learning particularly hard (Kuhfeld et al., 2020). Furthermore, school closures could further reinforce inequalities already prevalent before the pandemic (EPI/Renaissance Learning, 2021). Recent evidence of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on primary-aged children’s age-related learning evidences decreased attainment, with studies highlighting mathematics as often most heavily affected (e.g. Juniper Education, 2021). Sustained UK school closures in March-June 2020 and January-March 2021 meant that schools, teachers and families had to respond to a rapidly changing landscape. Further adaptations were later required for the reopening of schools, ensuring that classrooms met corona-safe guidelines. This has impacted on children’s learning and teachers’ means to formatively assess that. We report on findings from a longitudinal study exploring teacher and pupil use, of Power Maths, a ‘mastery’-oriented primary (R-year 6) mathematics resource, in England, and the impact on learning. The study follows 40 classes of 2019-21 Power Maths-using (initially) year 1,3 and 5 children and their teachers with termly data collection over two years. We were serendipitously able to document the response of teachers to the changing demands of teaching, learning and assessment throughout the pandemic, from Summer 2020- Summer 2021, and report on findings from four cycles of fieldwork. We present a contextualised story of how teachers managed learning and assessment through this unprecedented year. Initial responses from teachers during Summer 2020, following mandated school closures, evidenced the challenges in assessing pupil mathematics learning during the period of home-learning. In England, typically very limited synchronous teaching, inconsistencies in pupil contact, and highly variable levels of parental support, produced an unreliable picture of how pupils were responding to their mathematics learning opportunities. Often only engagement, rather than learning, was assessed, and that was reported highly variable. When schools reopened in Autumn 2020, some study data showed formal baseline assessments were often used as early as possible, whereas other teachers reported a focus on formative assessment only, to minimise children’s stress in a period when wellbeing was fragile. Practical and pedagogical adjustments had to be made in classrooms, with teachers and children experiencing restrictions on group work and use of practical resources alongside variable staff and pupil absence. These made supporting learning, and importantly, effective formative assessment, more challenging. There were significant concerns regarding apparent learning loss: some teachers suggested a 2-6 month ‘learning gap’, but others by December 2020 considered that most children had ‘recovered’ most mathematics learning. Data showed this to be a complex picture, and the assessments on which teachers based such judgments did not always represent a deep measure of areas of learning most affected in remote learning periods. At present, two phases of fieldwork are still to be completed (Spring 2021 & Summer 2021); their analysis will provide a fully-rounded picture of schools’ efforts to manage the impact of the pandemic on mathematics learning and assessment. Early analysis of Spring data suggests more effective transitions to remote learning and assessment during the 2021 lockdown, and despite an accumulation of remote learning, many teachers were confident about children’s progress on return to school. The youngest children’s (ages 4-6) mathematics learning was consistently assessed as having been hardest hit by pandemic constraints, whether at home or in school, but a minority of children, including some beyond the previously-strongest learners, had benefited. The study underlines that formative assessment, while critical to supporting learning, is still a work in progress for remote or severely constrained learning, and its reliability is likely to remain a challenge for younger children.

Type: Conference item (Presentation)
Title: A year of pandemic: managing the impact in Power Maths primary schools in England, 2020-2021
Event: AEA-Europe conference 2021
Location: Online conference
Dates: 02 - 05 November 2021
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: https://2021.aea-europe.net/
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10157464
Downloads since deposit
Download activity - last month
Download activity - last 12 months
Downloads by country - last 12 months

Archive Staff Only

View Item View Item