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Thousands of teachers reveal “deep problems” in classrooms four years on from school lockdown

•Nearly 90% of teachers believe emotional and social delay they are seeing in classrooms is related to lockdown and remote learning

•80% of teachers said they have seen disadvantaged pupils fall behind their peers in as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic

•78% of headteachers believe the UK Government needs to invest in more Covid catch-up funding for pupils beyond the £5 billion already pledged

•Only 5% of teachers believe the current money for educational recovery has been effective

Money to help children catch up in school following the Covid-19 pandemic is not making a difference with signs of emotional and social delay in the classroom, according to a new poll of thousands of teachers in England.

Four years on from the shut-down of schools (20 March 2020)* in England, 80% of teachers surveyed said they have seen an increase in the attainment gap as a result of lockdown. 

Almost half (47%) of those in schools in deprived areas said they had seen a “substantial increase” in the gap between pupils.

Despite the near £5bn of investment from the UK Government to schools and colleges to support pupil education, just 5% of state-school teachers agreed that the funding is effective.

The poll by Teacher Tapp and commissioned by leading children’s rights organisations, Save the Children UK, Just for Kids Law and the Children’s Rights Alliance for England suggests the UK Government should urgently increase its school recovery funding to support a generation of youngsters potentially beset with difficulties.

Dan Paskins, director of UK Impact at Save the Children , said: “Thousands of teachers are pointing to what we believe are deep problems in our classrooms post-pandemic for children’s academic and social development. It is also clear teachers would welcome greater investment to help their pupils catch-up and recover from an education spent in lockdown.

“Repairing the damage done by Covid-19 and school closures to children and young people will require long term commitment by the UK Government. As well as immediately investing in educational recovery funding, which the Education Policy Institute estimated to be £13.5 billion, we urge the UK Government to commit to increasing the level of funding per pupil every year during the next parliamentary term as recommended by the Association of School and College Leaders.”

Almost 7,000 teachers responded to the survey, conducted by Teacher Tapp on March 5. All three charities that commissioned the poll are Core Participants in the Covid-19 Inquiry and gave evidence as part of Module II, which related to Government decision making, throughout Autumn 2023. Their report What About The Children, which featured in the Daily Telegraph argued that the prolonged and unplanned closures of nurseries and schools disproportionately affected children in poverty.

Anton McGrath**, CEO of the Stamford Park Trust, a multi-academy trust based in Tameside, said: “The evidence we are seeing from across our trust reflects the worrying statistics seen from the Teacher Tapp survey. Teachers are reporting significant increases in students showing signs of poor mental health and difficulties in social and emotional development which are affecting the educational progress of these students.

“We would also agree that the educational attainment gap between disadvantaged students and their peers is growing as a result of gaps in knowledge resulting from the disruption in their education during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“As senior leaders in education, we firmly believe that greater investment to help schools and colleges support this cohort of students is necessary. Greater flexibility in how school and colleges can use this additional funding to reach those in need would also be positively received. Without this, we risk the prospect of a lost Covid-19 generation of children.”

Of the 6,431 teachers surveyed, the greatest impact of the pandemic that teachers reported seeing in the classroom were greater emotional and social issues. A significant 89% of teachers, including 93% of primary teachers say they have seen this in their classroom.

More than eight in 10 said that they have seen an increase in behavioural issues among students, with 87% of secondary teachers say that absenteeism has increased, a feeling shared by 62% of primary teachers.

The number of teachers who say they have seen a substantial increase in the attainment gap has increased since the last time the question was asked in November 2022, up to 35% from 28%.

Asked if the UK Government needs to invest in more post-Covid funding for educational recovery beyond the £5 billion already pledged***, the majority of state-school teachers agree there should be more investment.

Headteachers were the most likely to agree, with 78% agreeing there needs to be more funding. Primary teachers were also more likely to say that more investment was needed, with 75% of primary teachers agreeing, compared to 68% of secondary teachers.

Anne Longfield, former Children’s Commissioner for England and Chair of the Centre for Young Lives, said: “Teachers are seeing firsthand the long term impact that school closures and remote learning has had on the attainment gap, and how some of the most disadvantaged children have never been able to catch up.

“It is heartbreaking to read about the emotional and social problems that many young people are still struggling with, even four years on.

“As we approach the anniversary of the first lockdown, the Government must acknowledge the damage that failing to reopen schools quickly and to prepare properly for a second lockdown has caused to some children, and provide the recovery programmes so many still desperately need.”

Louise King, Director of the Children’s Rights Alliance for England, said: “Last week’s budget, which failed to announce significant investment in education or other children’s services, was a missed opportunity for the UK Government to show it had learnt lessons from the pandemic and was serious about addressing the harms caused to children.

“Instead, children remain largely invisible in government decision-making. This demonstrates once again why a Cabinet Minister for Children, a children’s strategy and mandatory child rights impact assessments are needed more than ever.”


Teacher Tapp is a daily survey app that asks over 9,000 teachers questions each day and reweights the results to make them representative. Questions were asked on March 5 to teachers in English state schools. Response numbers were between 5,937 and 6,431 depending on the question.

* Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on March 18, 2020 that schools would close that Friday, March 20, 2020.

** Anton McGrath is CEO of the Stamford Park Trust, a multi-academy trust based in Tameside, and chair of Smallshaw Hurst Children’s Community board, which is supported by Save the Children UK.

***In October 2021, then Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi announced that schools would receive an additional £4.7 billion in core funding in 2024 – 25, including £1.6 billion in 2022-23. He said the additional investment will also support the delivery of a £30,000 starting salary for all new teachers. That investment also included a one-off £1 billion recovery premium to support disadvantaged pupils in all state-funded primary and secondary schools, according to the press release issued at the time. He said the funding “takes the government’s direct investment in education recovery to almost £5 billion”.