The Impact of Covid-19 on Key Learning and Education (ICKLE)

On returning to school in Autumn 2020, most primary children had missed more than a term of usual school provision. The disruption to schooling may have exacerbated pre-existing inequalities in academic attainment, and potentially also created new ones. This project examines the impact of disruption to normal teaching on pupils at the important transition between reception and Year 1.

In reception, through adult-led instruction, children learn literacy, maths, and language skills which provide the foundation for later academic success. Instruction during the lockdown period varied considerably. Consequently, children are now likely to be on different developmental trajectories. For some, progress may have maintained or even accelerated; for others, progress may have stalled, and previously learned skills may have been lost.

Using a longitudinal design, this project investigates the trajectories of this cohort. Using data collected by schools at three points - before the pandemic, early Autumn 2020, and Spring 2021 - we are investigating the factors which have moderated and mediated pupil progress in the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) goals and reading levels. A large, super diverse city serves as the research site, ensuring that findings can be extrapolated to the national context. The data will immediately benefit schools in deciding how to allocate catch-up support. Project findings, conveyed directly to policy makers and third sector organisations, will inform national strategies aimed at remediating the negative impacts of lockdown post-COVID-19, and addressing inequalities in the event of future disruption to schools.


  • Findings will increase understanding within society of the immediate and longer-term impacts of school disruption on the development of foundation skills in young children.
  • Policy briefings shared via the project webpage will benefit national government, local councils and schools, informing decisions regarding differentiated and targeted support in the event of future disruption.
  • Survey instruments and full dataset will allow for additional analyses and collation with other data. 
  • Accessible summaries distributed via social media, focusing on the impact of school and home factors on pupils' progress, will benefit families and schools preparing for possible future school disruption. 
  • Academic articles will benefit a wide range of stakeholders, e.g. researchers, practitioners, policymakers.

Publications and outputs

  • Two online surveys (parent and teacher versions) about learning during Spring 2020 lockdown produced and distributed.
  • A data analysis plan pre-registered and published with open access, benefiting other researchers investigating COVID-19 impacts.
  • Three datasets (Spring and Autumn 2020, Spring 2021) of pupil progress information and survey responses will be produced.
  • Summary and full project reports. The report will benefit school leaders when identifying pupil needs and planning immediate support.

Project website