“Catch-up” and recovery approaches: Selected reading

Research Reviews
Author: Cat Scutt

A collection of articles, blogs and resources about how schools may approach catch-up and recovery


There is understandably huge concern about the learning that many pupils will have missed whilst unable to attend schools face-to-face due to the COVID-19 outbreak – both due to learning time they may have missed, and due to a possible extended ‘summer learning loss’ effect where learning prior to the lockdown may have been forgotten. There is also, rightly, concern about the impact of pupils from a socio-emotional perspective.

A number of proposals have been made about how schools (and other organisations) may seek to support pupils during a recovery period as schools reopen more widely, and / or how pupils may be supported to “catch up” on lost learning. Criticism has also been raised around the notion of “catch-up”. This page includes links to a wide range of useful articles, blogs, research reports and resources from different sources (all freely available or available through Chartered College membership) that explore ideas relating to how we can support pupils as school sites are reopened to more pupils.

These resources may be a potential starting point to help you reflect on this area and what approaches you may wish to consider taking in your own school. Critically, though, they will not provide an ‘answer’ to what is a very complex challenge. Some of the articles will also present opposing viewpoints, and ones which may contradict your own viewpoint or experience. They should provoke thought, debate and discussion.

Evidence-informed practice requires teachers and school leaders to make expert decisions based on their local context, professional experience and available research evidence. You need to select suitable approaches for your own setting, pupils and context – needs will vary widely by individual as well as by setting; the needs of early years, primary, secondary, special school and college pupils may all differ. That is why it is important that schools are given autonomy over how additional funding to support catch-up is spent.

It is also important to remember that the resources here are often exploring issues at a ‘macro’ level, rather than considering individual pupils; it is important to avoid making sweeping assumptions around pupils and how far they may have engaged with remote learning based on, for example, measures of disadvantage.

Whilst some of the articles and resources linked have been written or produced specifically in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, some are more general. The views within linked articles and resources do not necessarily represent those of the Chartered College, and we are not responsible for the content of any external links.

The list will be regularly updated with new links, and suggestions of other resources to add are very welcome – we are particularly keen for examples from a wider range of contexts, for example special schools. Please email me at cscutt@chartered.college or tweet me at @CatScutt

1: Possible impacts of school closures

Understanding the impact that partial school closures may have had on pupils, both academically in in terms of socio-emotional aspects, is important in considering where we might seek to focus our attention as schools reopen more widely and across the next academic year.

The Chartered College’s report on possible impacts of school closures for pupils and teachers looks at both academic and socio-emotional aspects; a second version of this report is due to be published over the summer

The Education Endowment Foundation’s rapid evidence assessment looks at the possible impact of school closures on the disadvantage gap.

This reading list from the Chartered College looks at some possible impacts of school closures on pupils, teachers and school leaders, as well as how these might be tackled

This working paper by the NWEA projects the learning loss that may occur during the partial school closures, based on both ‘missed’ learning and on the summer learning loss effect; this shorter article provides a summary of key points

This John Hattie article argues that we may be worrying too much about the impact of school closures on pupil learning, and that a few weeks of closure may not have much negative effect at all

This blog by Steve Boot for Learning from Lockdown takes a different approach and focuses on some of the things that pupils have enjoyed and benefited from during lockdown, as well as what they may have missed.

2: Approaches to recovery and catch-up

Many schools are considering where their focus should lie as schools reopen more widely, in order to provide pupils with appropriate academic and pastoral support. The DfE have committed to providing £650 million funding to support schools (but not currently early years settings or colleges) in helping pupils in England to catch up on missed learning during the COVID-19 outbreak. Schools are expected to be able to decide how to spend this funding (although small group tuition is presented as a priority), so will be considering the evidence for different possible approaches. The DfE is also committing £350 million for tuition (see section 3.1 below).

This article by Barry Carpenter considers the socio-emotional impact that COVID-19 and related school closures may have had, and how we might seek to address these through a “recovery curriculum”. The Learning Shared podcast from Evidence for Learning includes podcasts on the same theme from Barry Carpenter and a range of other contributors. You can also sign up for a free webinar with Barry Carpenter from the Chartered College of Teaching.

The Department for Education have published guidance and case studies around approaches to curriculum as schools begin to reopen more widely

The EEF’s COVID-19 support guide for schools provides guidance on catch-up approaches that schools may wish to consider

This blog by Steve Lane looks at the need to consider both the academic and pastoral needs of pupils in a balanced way

Mary Myatt’s Schools Week article argues that conversation, not re-writing lesson plans, will be key as schools focus on the recovery period

This short blog from Mark Goodwin on Learning from Lockdown offers tips for reintegrating pupils who have disengaged from school

Hannah Dalton and Kiran Mahil’s blog on Learning from Lockdown introduces their school’s Roadmap for Renewal

Jeremy Barnes’ blog argues that short-term approaches to catch-up are doomed to failure

This blog by Matthew Evans argues that the some proposed approaches to “catch-up”, especially for year 10, are overly focused on GCSE results and not wider learning

This blog by Aidan Severs questions what we mean by catch-up and recovery.

2.1: Supporting and developing teachers

High-quality teaching will ultimately be what makes a difference for pupils as they return to school more widely – we know the difference this makes for all pupils, but particularly those from a disadvantaged background. Supporting and developing our teachers and ensuring they have a manageable workload so that they are able to teach effectively is key. Any plans about interventions, such as tuition or summer schools, must take into account the need to not add further expectations on teachers by expecting these to be run as part of their roles.

The content in this section is not specific to a COVID-19 context.

Evidence-based Education’s new Great Teaching toolkit summarises the research on what highly effective teachers know and are able to do

The Education Endowment Foundation Toolkit– also available as a PDF – covers the evidence about a range of effective teaching approaches

This seminal piece of research by Matthew Kraft and John Papay explores the impact of school professional environment on teacher development

Matthew Ronfeldt and colleagues’ research looks at the relationship between quality teacher collaboration and pupil attainment

The DfE’s workload reduction toolkit highlights ways that schools may be able to reduce teachers’ workload

This reading list from the Chartered College includes a range of articles and resources about developing a professional environment where teachers become highly effective, including themes such as professional learning, collaboration and workload reduction.

2.2: Understanding pupils’ starting points

We know that there will be huge variation in the extent to which pupils are engaging in remote learning whilst schools have been partially closed, so their starting points on returning are likely to vary substantially.

This research from UCL highlights the variation in how much learning pupils may be engaging in whilst school sites are closed to most pupils

Ollie Lovell’s blog explores how we might have useful conversations about how much – and what – work they have done during lockdown

This blog by Chris Runeckles for Durrington Research School looks at how ‘pause’ lessons might help in the months after pupils return to school more widely

This blog by Ben Newmark argues that it is important we neither over- nor under-state the gaps that may have developed, and that teachers’ expertise will be key

This briefing note from Sam Sims at UCL IOE looks at the impact of pupil absences generally and finds that delaying testing helps to enable pupils to catch up; this may have some bearing on the differences that may emerge depending on the extent to which pupils have engaged in remote learning

The EEF’s toolkit guide on assessing and monitoring pupil progress covers some ideas for how best to understand pupils’ starting points and progress.

2.3: Remote and blended learning and support

It is likely that even after September, it may be necessary for some provision for pupil learning to still be made remotely or to involve a blended face-to-face and online model.
The Department for Education have published guidance and case studies around approaches to remote learning

The EEF’s rapid evidence review on distance learning highlights key ideas about effective distance learning, including that the quality of teaching is more important than specific technologies uses

This selected reading list from the Chartered College includes details of some of the approaches to remote learning adopted by schools; whilst these were primarily used during full lockdown, some of the approaches to supporting pupil learning and wellbeing will still have application now

Laura McInerney’s blog looks at how a blended, flexible approach to learning might support pupils learning in a combination of face-to-face and online

This Tes article from Zoe Enser looks at how to make blended learning effective as schools reopen more widely

The Chartered College’s two education technology-focused courses on FutureLearn include research articles, videos and case studies around using technology to support evidence-informed teaching practice

This blog from Ben White seeks to explore how different pupils may experience and engage with remote learning in different ways

Local EdTech Demonstrator Schools can provide useful support, training and ideas around effective remote learning

2.4: Home learning

Home learning is likely to continue to be important even once schools are reopen more widely; we know the impact that home learning support can have on pupil learning. Some of these articles and resources specifically relate to engaging parents during (and after) the COVID-19 outbreak to support home learning, whilst others are more general

This Washington Post article includes ideas from Daniel and Trisha Willingham on how to support pupils in being independent learners over the summer

This blog from Rachel Macfarlane for Learning from Lockdown offers some advice for building strong relationships with families

Evidence for Learning (the Australian equivalent of the EEF) have pulled out key principles for teachers seeking to develop home-supported learning, as well as for parents themselves

Janet Goodall has written an Impact article for the Chartered College looking at how to support the home learning environment during school closures – many of this principles will continue to be relevant as schools reopen more widely

Laura Barbour, early years lead at the Sutton Trust, has written about the importance of the home learning environment during the current school closures

The EEF’s guidance report on parental engagement contains lots of useful principles more broadly

This Chartered College selected reading list on parental engagement from last year contains a large set of links to research and articles around parental engagement approaches.

2.5: Transition

Effective transition between phases, for example from primary school to secondary school, needs careful consideration even in normal times. Schools will be considering how best to support transition in the current context, where approaches such as school visits may not be possible.

Fran Landreth Strong’s article for the RSA looks at why secondary school transition is particularly important – and challenging – during school closures.

This Schools Week article by Ellie Mulcahy summarises recent research on transition and its implications in the current context

This article by Zoe Enser looks at managing transition in English in the current context, but has ideas that are relevant for other subject areas too

This Bristol Early Years guide looks at transition in early years during the COVID-19 pandemic

Education Scotland have produced a range of resources around transition in 2020

Oxford County Council have produced a toolkit around early years transition during COVID-19

Northamptonshire Educational Psychology Service have produced guidance around supporting transition during the COVID-19 closures

The Key for School Leaders have produced transition to secondary guidance with an accompanying checklist

This systematic literature review from the Scottish Government looks at the features of effective transition from Primary to Secondary in normal times, as does this systematic literature review from Marlau van Rens and colleagues. The STARS project from UCL and Cardiff University has a range of findings on this topic, too

This report of a piece of action research in Lancashire includes a range of case studies around Reception to Year 1 transition in normal times.

2.6: Tackling the disadvantage gap

Partial school closures will disproportionately affect some pupils – for example disadvantaged pupils, some of whom do not have access to devices or the internet to access online learning. The Education Endowment Foundation’s rapid evidence assessment of the impact these school closures will have on the disadvantage gap suggests that:

  • School closures are likely to reverse progress made to close the gap in the last decade since 2011.
  • Supporting effective remote learning will mitigate the extent to which the gap widens.
  • Sustained support will be needed to help disadvantaged pupils catch up.

Ben Pollard’s blog looks at how his school are seeking to approach supporting disadvantaged pupils, both whilst they are learning remotely and when they return to the classroom

Tom Harbour’s article for Tes looks at some things that might work, and some things that don’t, in supporting disadvantaged families with home learning during the COVID-19 outbreak

Resources around tackling the disadvantage gap more widely may also be useful during this time; likewise, the same challenges faced with ‘interventions’ as an approach to tackle disadvantage may also exist in the current context.

These blogs from Professor Becky Allen looking at why, in her view, the Pupil Premium is not working: Becky Allen – Pupil Premium blog Part 1; Becky Allen – Pupil Premium blog Part 2; Becky Allen – Pupil Premium blog Part 3

Marc Rowland’s resources on making the best use of the pupil premium include lots of useful ideas

The Education Endowment Foundation Toolkit– also available as a PDF – covers the evidence about a range of interventions and approaches.

3: Specific strategies and interventions to support catch-up and recovery

The specific strategies and interventions outlined below are ones which have been proposed as possible approaches on various occasions. All of these require substantial resource to deliver, and it is important to recognise there should not be an expectation that schools carry these out in addition to their existing roles without recompense.

3.1: Tutoring

The DfE have committed to funding £350 million’s worth of tuition to support schools (but not currently early years settings or colleges) in helping pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds in England to catch up on missed learning during the COVID-19 outbreak.

This Sutton Trust press release provides initial details of this DfE-funded national tutoring programme (delivered with EEF, Impetus and Nesta) and the EEF’s FAQs on the project provide further detail.

The EEF have summarised the evidence around the effectiveness of one-to-one tutoring and of small-group tuition

John Jerrim’s 2017 report for The Sutton Trust provides data on how much private tuition is taken up, by whom, and in what subject areas (in normal times)

This report from St George’s University London on their Science Stars science tuition project provides a useful case study of one approach to tutoring

Assistant headteacher Garry Russon’s article for Tes last year looks at how and why his school offered online maths tutorials over the summer to try to tackle summer learning loss.

3.2: Summer schools

Intensive catch-up models, such as summer schools, have been suggested as one possible approach to helping pupils to catch up on lost learning due to the COVID-19 school closures, including by Teach First in their submission to the Education Committee.

The EEF have summarised the evidence around the effectiveness of summer schools

This extensive 2011 report on summer schools for the Wallace Foundation includes, amongst other things, exploration of the components of high-quality summer schools and consideration of the costs of summer schools

This article by two University of Southern California professors looks at what summer learning loss is and how different summer school approaches may be effective in addressing it.

3.3: Extending school days

Bolt-on sessions at either end of the school day have been mentioned in the media as an approach the DfE may be planning to introduce to support catch-up.

The EEF’s toolkit strand on extending school days summarises evidence around the impact of this approach

A Schools Week article by Laura McInerney from three years ago looks at some of the views and research around extending school days

This NEA article (from the US) looks at the research and some pros and cons of longer school days

3.4: Other possible interventions and strategies

The EEF’s promising projects list includes interventions that appear to be promising (in normal times) in terms of improving outcomes for children from disadvantaged backgrounds; these may be worth considering as schools return fully

This Hechinger Report article explores whether ‘looping’, where classes are taught by the same teacher as they move across academic years, could be powerful in the current context

Philippa Cordingley’s blog for Learning from Lockdown suggests the arts may play a key role in supporting vulnerable primary pupils in re-entering school.