How have aspects of Key Stage 2 children’s academic wellbeing affected their attainment?

Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic include prolonged school closure and cancellation of national testing. In the absence of national data over this period, commercial data provided an alternative route to understanding children’s attainment and wellbeing. Prior analysis of children’s attainment tests has shown that the impact of school closures has varied by subject (Blainey, 2021) and recently, analysis of children’s responses to wellbeing surveys has indicated that self-efficacy has reduced over this period (Milanovic, 2022).

This paper uses test and survey data schools in England collected by Hodder Education to consider how children’s academic wellbeing may mitigate or exacerbate the impact of school closures on their attainment. It presents the analysis of results from 522 children aged 8-11 at Primary schools in England who completed wellbeing surveys and standardised attainment tests in either reading, maths or grammar, punctuation and spelling (GPS) in autumn 2020 and autumn 2021. A between-subjects design was used to investigate the impact of four aspects of children’s self-reported wellbeing at school with their attainment scores in standardised assessments. One-way ANOVA analysis found that children who reported feeling positive at school had significantly higher standardised scores in GPS tests [F(2, 185) = 3.38, p = 0.036] and children who had higher academic self-efficacy scores had significantly higher standardised scores in maths tests [F(2, 228) = 7.63, p =0.001]. In addition to this, hierarchical regression showed that children’s academic positivity in autumn 2020 was able to account for significant growth in GPS standardised scores between the mid pandemic and post lockdown periods, indicating it may have a role to play in supporting pupils’ ability to catch up on lost learning here [F(1, 183) = 4.67, p = 0.028]. Similarly, children’s academic self-efficacy in autumn 2020 was able to account for significant growth in maths standardised scores [F(1, 226) = 4.90, p = 0.028].

In the years following the pandemic, measurements of the impact of school closures will be relied on for evidence-based school improvement and to provide assistance to children who are struggling with returning to pre-pandemic attainment levels. This work shows that additional investment in supporting positive academic wellbeing may assist with improving attainment.