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“Catch-up” and recovery approaches: Selected reading

Written By: Cat Scutt
23 min read
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. 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 these ideas.

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. 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. Please email me at or tweet me at @CatScutt .

1: Possible impacts of school closures

Understanding the impact that partial school closures may have had is important in considering where we might seek to focus our attention as schools reopen more widely and as we plan for ‘recovery’.

1.1 The impact of school closures on pupils and teachers

A number of researchers, teachers and others have attempted to understand and, in some cases, quantify the impact that schools closures may have had, both academically in in terms of socio-emotional aspects.

The Education Endowment Foundation have collated and summarised findings from a range of research studies looking at the impact of school closures on pupil attainment; this includes a number of studies they have funded.

The Chartered College’s report on possible impacts of school closures for pupils and teachers looks at both academic and socio-emotional aspects.

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.

A report from Monash University predicts some of the longer-term impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak on education.

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 blogpost by Steve Boot for Lessons 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.

The Bell Foundation’s webinar (available to watch back) and follow-up blogpost look at the possible impact of school closures on disadvantaged EAL pupils.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) have looked at the potential long-term economic consequences of ‘lost learning’ and the need to think big in terms of catch-up.

ImpactED’s research found (amongst other things) that whilst many children’s mental health does not appear to have been negatively affected by school closures, some groups do appear to have been more affected.


1.2: Understanding ‘summer learning loss’

The impact of COVID-19 on pupils’ academic attainment is likely to be due both to learning time they may have missed, and to a possible extended ‘summer learning loss’ effect where learning prior to the lockdown may have been forgotten. Understanding what summer learning loss is may therefore be helpful.

This working paper by the NWEA projects the learning loss that they thought might 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.

An article by two University of Southern California professors looks at what summer learning loss is and what could be done about it.

An article by Paul T. von Hippel, an associate professor at the University of Texas, challenges some of the previous research and assumptions around the extent of summer learning loss – a shorter article by him also summarises his arguments.

2: Concepts of recovery and ‘catch-up’

There has been much debate on the concepts of recovery and catch-up and how these might best be addressed.


2.1: Views on the notion of ‘recovery’ and ‘catch-up’

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

Megan Chelsea Morris’s blogpost argues that we need to remove the pressure of catch-up, and “Just get the children back, just teach them, just let them learn.”

Both Patrick Roach and Geoff Barton have written for SecEd arguing for the importance of a long-term approach to recovery, with appropriate funding and where teachers are trusted.

Head of History Kristian Shanks has blogged about why he is not worrying too much about catch-up.

Tony Breslin has blogged for Young Citizens on how academic catch-up may actually be more straightforward to approach than catching up on “the water-cooler moments of childhood”, and how crucial these are as well.

Melanie Ehren’s two-part blogpost for UCL IOE, ‘Quick Catchup or Recovery Over Time?’ takes a systems perspective on education recovery, which considers education as a nested structure where learning takes place in a class, with a teacher, who is part of a school which operates in a wider context of a local community, school board and national policies and funding structures. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 now.

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

Headteacher Kevin Harcombe wrote for TeachWire on why recovery should simply consist of doing what teachers have always done so well.

Alex Galvin at SSAT has written about why long-term recovery planning is the key, not short-term catch-up, and that rather than talking of a ‘lost generation’, we should commend our young people for the way they have adapted.

Deputy Principal Gemma Williamson has written for SSAT on why we should be more ambitious than simply ‘catching up’, and make use of what we have learnt from experiences of remote learning.

This blogpost for the University of Manchester looks at the experiences of teenagers during lockdown and what this means for recovery – with an interesting focus on providing certainty.


2.2: ‘Building back better’?

The World Bank have published a brief document looking at how we might seek to ‘build back better’ with links to some interesting examples from round the world.

Tony Breslin has written for the RSA on catch-up, recovery, and what the future of schooling might be post-pandemic.

Gemma Moss has blogged for BERA on the fragilities of the education system that have been revealed by the pandemic and what this may mean for the future.

Laura McInerney wrote for The Guardian on how lockdown may have shown us how technology can be used to help close the achievement gap.

Michael Merrick’s blogpost discusses how the current situation might (and should) lead to a rethink of what we value as ‘success’.

The IPPR have identified three areas where they believe the pandemic provides an opportunity to open up conversations about the future of schooling.

3. Approaches to recovery and catch-up

A number of different approaches are being taken to recovery and catch-up around the country and around the world. This section includes some blogposts, articles, and resources relating to different approaches, from policy level to individual subject level.

3.1 Policy approaches to recovery in England and internationally

The DfE are providing a ‘catch-up premium’ for schools which must be spent specifically on activities to support catch-up, as well as offering funding for tutoring through the National Tutoring Programme. There is also a specific funding programme for 16-19, and some schools signed up for Nuffield Early Language Intervention programme.

The DfE have also published guidance and case studies around approaches to curriculum as schools begin to reopen more widely.

Sir Kevan Collins, the Education Recovery Commissioner, told SchoolsWeek about some of his catch-up priorities for England in a Q&A. In April, he will lead a free webinar on ‘a vision for recovery’ for the Chartered College. Members will be able to view a recording afterwards.

The EEF have created a guide to supporting school planning for 2021, which aims to support school leaders with their planning for this unpredictable academic year.

UNESCO have published a list of ideas of what schools around the world may be thinking about and planning for as they reopen.

The Center for Global Development have produced an ‘evidence kit’ that might inform policymakers’ planning for school reopening and recovery internationally.

This article from Cambridge Assessment looking at themes in government approaches to curriculum when schools reopen across the four nations of the UK was written in advance of schools reopening in September 2020, but still has some relevance now.

Education Scotland have collated a list of links to different approaches taken to education recovery around the world.


3.1: School-level approaches to recovery

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. Chartered College members can also view a recording of webinar with Barry Carpenter looking at the idea of a recovery curriculum, and this video he recorded for SSAT looks at how a recovery curriculum might be implemented in schools.

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

The team at Inspir.Ed have written about some of the things to consider when planning for rebuilding learning.

Mary Myatt’s ResearchEDHome video, “Back on Track”, looks at focusing on the things that really make a difference.

A blogpost on the Danes Educational Trust’s teaching and learning website looks at getting the balance right between academic and socio-emotional aspects of learning in a recovery curriculum.

Herts for Learning have written about three areas schools will need to reflect on in planning for recovery: curriculum, assessment and staff development.

Andrew Jones has written for Challenge Partners on what we can learn from other countries’ experiences in designing recovery curricula.

Mary Myatt’s Schools Week article argues that conversation, not re-writing lesson plans, will be key as schools focus on the recovery period. If you have a The Key subscription, this article also shares some advice from Mary and from Tom Sherrington on accelerating catch-up learning.

Hannah Dalton and Kiran Mahil’s blogpost on Lessons from Lockdown introduces their school’s Roadmap for Renewal.

This blogpost by Matthew Evans, written in 2020, argues that the some proposed approaches to “catch-up” at the time, especially for year 10, were overly focused on GCSE results and not wider learning.

Julie McCulloch has written for ASCL on the importance of quality, not just quantity, in terms of catch-up plans.

Mr Gordon’s blogpost looks at some of the questions we need to address when planning catch-up, focusing on keeping things simple, and shares his school’s approach.

Pauline Brown has described her school’s ​keep up’, rather than ‘catch up’, strategy in a blogpost for the Research Schools Network.

3.2: Specific recovery approaches and examples

Leanne Oswin has written for Derby Research School on leading effectively in an early years setting following a global pandemic

‘The Literacy Curriculum’ have blogged about supporting recovery in the Early Years and Year 1.

Adam Annand’s blogpost argues for the importance of the arts in a recovery curriculum.

Matt Payne wrote for Tes about how his lower school in New York developed a catch-up curriculum.

Chris Jones has blogged about how schools might think about timetabling and pupil organisation in their approach to recovery both during the pandemic and after it.

Amarbeer Singh Gill has written for Greenshaw Research School on returning to the classroom and the importance of routines and assessment.

Jean Gross has written for the Research Schools Network on what socio-emotional learning provision could look like as schools return.

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

Adam Boxer’s blog on approaches to recovery includes an interesting approach in considering ‘prior’ vs ‘prerequisite’ knowledge.

Hannah Breeze from the RSA has written for the #iwill campaign on why Youth Social Action should be part of schools’ offer post-pandemic.

Teacher Caiti Walker has blogged for OUP about why she is keeping great subject teaching at the heart of things as face-to-face learning restarts.

Headteacher Tom Milsom has blogged for the British Psychological Society about his specialist school’s focus on psychological recovery.

James Durran has blogged about what subject leaders and subject teams may be thinking about as schools reopen for face-to-face teaching, with a focus on curriculum.

This blogpost from Cornerstones looks at how primary schools might implement a recovery curriculum, based on Barry Carpenter’s ideas.

This Tes article by Grainne Hallahan looks at how schools may support NQTs who have trained during COVID-19 – a different aspect of recovery!

Alex Quigley’s blogpost looks at how ‘the Matthew effect’ may have been even more pronounced for pupils’ literacy during COVID-19 and what we might do about this.

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

 3.3: 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.

Alex Quigley’s blogpost for the EEF looks at the role of diagnostic assessment in the recovery process.

The EEF’s toolkit guide on assessing and monitoring pupil progress covers some ideas for how best to understand pupils’ starting points and progress. The section on Diagnostic Assessment may be particularly relevant.

Phil Stock has written for Greenshaw Research School on the use of diagnostic assessment in the classroom.

Laura Lodge at OneEducation has written about using diagnostic assessment to identify learning priorities post-pandemic.

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

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

Niki Kaiser’s blogpost for the Research Schools Network looks at what assessment might look like in the science classroom.

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

This blogpost 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.

3.4 Catch-up and recovery resources

A number of organisations and schools have produced free resources to support with catch-up and recovery or have published their approaches to recovery curriculums. Some of these are listed below. Please note that the Chartered College has not quality assured these resources and no endorsement is implied.

New River College Outreach Team, Islington CAMHS and Islington School Improvement Service have produced a document to guide schools’ thinking as they plan a recovery curriculum, based around principles from Barry Carpenter’s work.

NACE have produced a resource pack focused on going ‘beyond recovery’ to continue to allow young people to be challenged, to thrive, and finding new and different ways to help them engage.

Oxford Partners in Learning have produced a powerpoint looking at supporting vulnerable learners on return to school.

SENDsuccess have put together guidance on a recovery curriculum and supporting children and young peoples’ re-engagement with face-to-face education

The School Development Support Agency are collating resources that schools might wish to use in a recovery curriculum – you can also contribute your own.

Oak National Academy resources and lessons may also be useful for use where learning needs to be revisited for some pupils.

Coventry City Council have a collaborative repository of recovery curriculum resources.

4: 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, including in the EEF’s COVID-19 support guide for schools. 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.


4.1: Tutoring

The DfE have committed to funding £350 million’s worth of tuition to support schools in helping pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds in England to catch up on missed learning during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Details of the DfE-funded National Tutoring Programme (delivered with EEF, Impetus and Nesta) and how to access it are available on the website; the FAQs on the project provide a useful oversight, as does the DfE’s press release. Schools pay 25% of tutoring costs with the rest subsidised.

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 in 2019 looks at how and why his school offered online maths tutorials over the summer to try to tackle summer learning loss.


4.2: 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.

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.


4.3: Extending school days and terms

Extending school days and shortening holidays have both been mentioned as possible approaches to supporting catch-up.

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

This brief summary from the Chartered College highlights some research around extending the school day and lengths of terms.

Duriak and Weissberg’s briefing reviews research to understand the possible impact of evidence-based after-school programs, a slightly different approach to simply extending the school day.

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.


4.4: 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.

5: Wider research and practice

Much of the content in this section is not specific to a COVID-19 context, but covers topics that are important in the current context or that may inform approaches to catch-up or recovery.

5.1: 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 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.

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.


5.2: Tackling the disadvantage gap

Partial school closures will have disproportionately affected 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 had on the disadvantage gap suggests that:

  • School closures risk reversing progress made to close the gap in the last decade since 2011
  • Sustained support will be needed to help disadvantaged pupils catch up.

Ben Pollard’s blogpost 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 blogposts 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.

Ruth Powley’s blogpost was written years before COVID-19, but looks at eight catch-up pedagogies every teacher should know – focusing, very simply, on what great teaching practice looks like.

5.3: Effective transition

Effective transition between phases, for example from primary school to secondary school, needs careful consideration even in normal times. During last year’s school closures, schools needed to consider how best to support transition in a very different context, where approaches such as school visits were not possible. Transition will also be important to think about carefully this year.

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 last year.

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 (subscription required to view).

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.


5.4: 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.

This blogpost from Rachel Macfarlane for Lessons 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 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.


5.5: Remote and blended learning and support

It is likely that in the coming months, 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 blogpost 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 blogpost 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.

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