Corona: some pupils are extra duped by first closure primary schools

During the first school closure in primary education in the 2019/2020 school year as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, pupils from all backgrounds suffered a delay in learning growth compared to the previous years. This can be seen for all three domains: arithmetic-mathematics, spelling and reading comprehension. However, the delay is greater for some pupils than for other pupils. This is shown by research by scientists at Maastricht University based on the National Cohort Research Education (NCO).

Socio-economic status

Dr. Carla Haelermans is national coordinator of the NCO, and is involved in the research from the Research Center for Education and the Labor Market (ROA). “The consequences of the (partial) school closure have been strongest for pupils with a low or average socio-economic background. For arithmetic, mathematics, spelling and reading comprehension, the delay in learning growth is approximately one and a half times greater for pupils with a low or medium socio-economic background (SES) than for pupils with a high socio-economic status. In addition to these differences in socio-economic background, there is an additional delay in the learning growth of pupils with a non-Western migration background, pupils from one-parent families and large families (with more than three children living at home). In addition, the results also show that pupils who previously had greater learning growth than those with lower learning growth, experience less delay.” says Haelermans

Differences between schools

Schools with a high percentage of low-SES pupils perform relatively poorly. This effect is in addition to the effect for the low-SES pupils themselves. This means that the other pupils at these schools are also hit extra hard. In addition, it appears that schools that showed higher growth in learning before COVID-19 are better able to mitigate the consequences of school closures than schools that previously had lower growth in learning.

Problems with reading comprehension

Although in all three the learning growth since COVID-19 (2019/20) is lower than before, the percentage difference is greatest in reading comprehension (25% less learning growth), followed by arithmetic/mathematics (16% less learning growth) and lowest in spelling (14% less learning growth).

Relevant figures can be found in the fact sheets of the NCO. These can be viewed, with explanatory notes, at

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