THE impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Barnsley youngsters’ education results - from early years to the end of secondary school - has been laid bare in a new report which reveals a significant drop in attainment.
Due to the impact of Covid during 2020 and 2021, all GCSE and A Level examinations were cancelled, and outcomes for all students nationally were awarded based on teacher-assessed grades.
At Key Stage One - which includes kids aged between five and seven - the amount of pupils achieving expected standards in reading, writing and mathematics dropped from 63 per cent in 2019 to 55.1 per cent this year.
However at Key Stage Two - from seven to 11 - figures improved for the three measures with 58.8 per cent hitting the target.
Figures have not been revealed for Key Stage Three due to kids not being required to sit examinations between the ages of 11 and 14, while GCSEs at Key Stage Four - which used to use five A* to C grades as a pass measure, ditched in favour of the ‘Attainment 8’ format - are ‘in line’ with national averages.
A report, due to be discussed by councillors on the council’s overview and scrutiny committee in the new year, said: “We know that nationally this has been a challenging three years for children, young people and their families, as well as the wider education workforce.
“Barnsley was disproportionately affected by the impact of the Covid pandemic, and in partnership with the Barnsley Schools’ Alliance, we remained focused on improving education outcomes for all children and young people, but particularly the most vulnerable.
“We will continue to work with school and academy leaders to deliver our sector-led education improvement strategy, which has proved effective in driving up standards in Barnsley schools and academies.
“Although Barnsley have seen decreases in the number of students achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and maths we are still performing above national when also considering the three elements separately.
“Whilst Barnsley’s Attainment 8 measure is below the national average, this is in line with the majority of our statistical neighbours, which may reflect the disproportionate impact that Covid has had on disadvantaged communities.”
Average A Level grades for Barnsley, however, improved to a ‘B’ in 2022, which is an improvement on the grade ‘C’ seen as the average grade in 2019.
The percentage of Barnsley students achieving A* or A passes increased to 26.1 per cent in 2022 from 18.7 per cent in 2019, while nationally there was an increase to 32.9 per cent from 22.4 per cent.
According to the report, the national increase has been faster than seen at a local authority level, which further ‘increases the gap’.
Coun Trevor Cave, cabinet spokesperson for children’s services, added: “I’m proud of our relenting ambition for Barnsley children and young people and pleased to see that the town is holding its own, despite the significant challenges presented by the pandemic.
“In schools and academies which have higher concerns than others, a targeted approach through the Barnsley Schools’ Alliance will take place in order to address and challenge any areas of underperformance.
“Our strength lies in partnership working - we know that schools that actively engage in the Barnsley Schools’ Alliance by accessing its support and challenge are more successful with better outcomes.
“We also recognise that inclusive schools combined with a varied and enriching curriculum go hand in hand with better outcomes, achievement and attainment and we will continue to work together to achieve this.”