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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 disruptions 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 that 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.

Project aims

Using a longitudinal design, the ICKLE project investigates the learning of children starting Year 1 in September 2020. Using data collected by schools at three points - before the pandemic, in early Autumn 2020, and in Spring 2021 - we are investigating the factors that have moderated and mediated pupil progress against a subset the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile goals and reading levels. Working in a large, superdiverse city, we will extrapolate our Leeds findings to the national context.

The data will benefit schools in deciding how to allocate catch-up support. Project findings, conveyed to policy makers and third sector organisations, will inform national strategies to remediate the negative impacts of lockdown post-Covid-19, and to address inequalities as disruption to schools continues.

Further details of project methodology


We have now begun work on our impact study ICKLE+ which is funded by the Leeds Social Sciences Institute (LSSI) ESRC Impact Acceleration Account (IAA). If you would like to find out more information, please follow the link here. Please also check out our blog page or click on the twitter icon at the bottom of the page for all the latest updates.