Exploring How the Pandemic Affected Gospel Oak Primary School Student Attainment

Sponsor Gospel Oak Primary School
Sponsor Liaison: John Hayes, Dawn O’Driscoll
Student Team: Jessica Feeney, Gavin Maloney, Alec Parish
Abstract: Teachers around the world are noticing students struggling in the classroom since returning to in-person learning post-pandemic. At Gospel Oak Primary school, located in London, staff have noticed increased rates of developmental delays and decreasing attainment levels post-pandemic. We conducted staff interviews (n:10) and surveys (n:3) to understand staff observations during and post-pandemic, along with an analysis of standardised testing and academic records. We determined that older students [9-11] were minimally affected, students 7-9 were impacted academically and students 3-7 were impacted developmentally. Our findings identify areas of concern based on where students are performing below expectations, which the school can use to tailor interventions to support struggling students.

Exploring How The Pandemic Affected Gospel Oak Primary School Student Attainment: Report

Exploring How the Pandemic Affected Gospel Oak Primary School Student Attainment: Presentation

Executive Summary

In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic caused schools around the world to close and transition to remote learning. Online learning was uncharted territory, and many schools were unable to make a seamless transition. Schools struggled to get consistent participation from students and teachers were working extra hours providing support to students and recording lessons. Additionally, workload expectations decreased and students were often not expected to submit by a specified deadline. Another challenge many students and teachers faced was access to technology and dependable internet. This makes it hard for students to participate in assignments and lessons. Lancker & Parolin, 2020 found that the longer students were deprived of learning due to lockdowns, the more they struggled when returning to the classroom. This was because they were no longer used to learning and found it hard to focus, preserve and work independently. Children between the ages of 0-5 suffered developmental delays, as they had not yet fully formed their cognitive function. Older children 6-11 were impacted differently, as their usual routines were disrupted and they missed more formal schooling time and key socialisation.


Located in the Camden borough of London, Gospel Oak Primary school is a large, high performing state primary school. The school is known for their students scoring extremely high on both Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 exams. Similar to other schools, Gospel Oak was affected by the 2020-2021 COVID-19 lockdowns. These lockdowns resulted in school shutdowns, with only in-person learning available to a select group of students. Since returning to in-person learning, Gospel Oak staff have observed a wide range of differences in their students compared to pre-pandmeic, with notable increases in students struggling with Reading and Writing. Staff working with younger students (Nursery, Reception, Year 1 & 2), have noted students suffering from developmental delays. These delays include struggling to focus during lessons and a dramatic increase in students not passing Phonics tests. Upon returning to in-person learning, these staff members have put interventions into place to support struggling students. These interventions include one-on-one support and focus groups, each is tailored for a group/ child with a specific need. Not all effects of the pandemic were negative, however, some students, particularly older students, students with sufficient digital access, or who have parents with flexible work schedules, seemed to have thrived during lockdowns. Headteacher John Hayes has observed this change and hypothesised that the education gap between vulnerable (Disadvantaged, English as a Second Language, Special Education Needs) students and the rest of their cohort has expanded. This project determined the impact of the pandemic on Gospel Oak Primary and Nursery school students’ attainment.

This research investigated the impact of the pandemic, by focusing on the following objectives:

  1.  Investigated Gospel Oak’s response to the pandemic
  2. Determined how the pandemic impacted student attainment



Our methods consisted of in-person staff interviews (n:10) and surveys (n:3), an in-depth analysis of standardised tests from (2017-2022) and practice testing from (2017-2022). The staff interviews and surveys, provided insight into staff observations of their students pre-pandemic, during the pandemic and post-pandemic. Each interview was recorded and transcribed and was semi-structured. We began by performing an in-person interview with Headteacher John Hayes, who was able to give us the school protocol and overall school observations. From teachers, we were able to gain insight into the classroom, curriculum, expectations and challenges, along with any interventions being utilised for whole cohort support. From TA and other teacher support we learned about how many students are struggling within each cohort and interventions being put into place for specific students.


We analysed Key Stage data and student academic history to understand how students are performing post-pandemic. Key Stage testing is the UK’s form of standardised testing, which gauges a students academic progress. From the data we were able to determine how the changes in teaching and enforcement of participation during the pandemic impacted different groups of students. We analysed Key Stage data from 2017-2022 (excluding 2020), which tested students on English, Writing and Maths skills. To analyse this data, we compared pre-pandemic to post-pandemic percent of students meeting the Expected Standard to determine how students are performing compared to the expectations set by previous cohorts. We then furthered this analysis by comparing the performance of vulnerable students. Vulnerable students were defined as a student who is considered disadvantaged, speaks English as a second language (EAL), and/or special education needs (SEN) in pre-pandemic cohorts to the performance of vulnerable students post-pandemic. The first comparisons executed were, pre-pandemic (2017-2019) percentages to post-pandemic (2021 & 2022) percentages for both KS1 and KS2 tests. Next, we looked into the education gaps for each test- how vulnerable students performed compared to the rest of their cohort. For our Key Stage analysis, we had two Cohorts which took the KS1 before the pandemic and the KS2 after the pandemic- the 2017/2021 Cohort and 2018/2022 Cohort. KS testing data allowed us to determine how the gap for vulnerable students has changed from when students took KS1 pre pandemic and KS2 post pandemic.


We also analysed student academic progress history, which is how students have performed throughout their academic career in English, Writing, Maths and Phonics (when applicable). For Maths academic history, we examined Maths testing data, which the school calls White Rose data for cohorts ranging from current Year 8 students (Year 5 in 2020) to current Year 2 students (Nursery in 2020). This enabled us to establish how the gap for vulnerable students was expected to change in different cohorts post pandemic. For English we analysed Progress in Reading Assessment (PiRA) data for 2018 and 2021 and teacher assessments for Reading and Writing  data for Autumn 2021 and Spring 2022. From these data sets, we identified cohorts performing lower than previous years and determined how far off track students are compared to previous cohorts.



Our findings revealed that education gaps between vulnerable students and the rest of the cohort expanded post pandemic due to lower academic support (both teacher and parental) and ability to participate in assignments or lessons during the pandemic. Teachers have noticed an increase in students who struggle to focus in the classroom and are suffering from developmental delays, which has resulted in lower attainment and necessitating more one-on-one support. These struggles and delayed developmental skills are resulting in lower attainment and more one-on-one support being needed within the classroom. We determined that students ages 9-11 were minimally affected, as they were more comfortable with Google Classroom and more self sufficient. Students 7-9 were primarily impacted educationally, as they needed more support. Students 3-7 were impacted developmentally, with more students struggling with Phonics, sensory skills and having challenges focusing.



Based on our findings, we determined two takeaways for Gospel Oak to support their student post-pandemic. First, the school should focus on the developmental development of the current Early Years groups to Year 2; these groups need extra emphasis on communication and focusing skills, along with Phonics. Another area of concern is the expanding education gaps between vulnerable groups of students and the rest of their cohort. Extra support is needed for these students and the school should consider a program, or classroom dynamic which supports these students.