Online learning: How have children fared by subject?

  • In general, comprehension scores declined with age: primary pupils performed better than secondary pupils in post-lesson quizzes and young primary pupils (Key Stage 1) performed best of all.
  • There was also considerable variation by subject. For example, maths and science showed relatively large declines in comprehension between primary and secondary, while geography and religious education were more consistent across age groups. We have also explored variations between different units within each subject.
  • Pupils tended to score higher in post-lesson 'exit' quizzes than in the same questions posed at the start of the next lesson. This suggests a degree of (natural) forgetting between lessons and provides a putative indicator of knowledge retention.
  • In contrast to comprehension, maths showed very high retention rates across all Key Stages, while history and religious education performed less well; science and geography were generally somewhere in between.
  • As well as delivering valuable learning resources for pupils, online platforms such as Oak can also provide detailed, real-time insights into children's collective challenges and accomplishments as they progress through the curriculum.

Figure 1: Oak quiz questions answered
Sources: Oak National Academy; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 2: Exit quiz performance by Key Stage or subject
Key: RSHE = relationships, sex and health education; PSHE = personal, social, health and economic education; RE = religious education; DT = design and technology; PE = Physical Education.
Sources: Oak National Academy; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 3: Exit quiz performance by subject for each Key Stage
Key: RSHE = relationships, sex and health education; PSHE = personal, social, health and economic education; RE = religious education; DT = design and technology; PE = Physical Education.
Sources: Oak National Academy; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 4: Exit quiz performance by Key Stage for selected subjects
Key: RSHE = relationships, sex and health education; PSHE = personal, social, health and economic education.
Sources: Oak National Academy; SchoolDash analysis.

There is a lot of information here and we invite you to explore it using the menu below. But to highlight briefly the example of maths, at Key Stage 1, most units were in the 80%-90% range, by Key Stage 2 many (from an admittedly even longer list) fell below 70%, and at Key Stage 3 some units were well below 60%. A similar, if less extreme, pattern was evident for science across Key Stages 1, 2 and 3.

Figure 5: Exit quiz performance by unit
Notes: Subjects composed of only one or two units have been omitted, as have units with fewer than 5,000 responses. Due to their length, the lists for Key Stage 3 English and Key Stage 4 maths have each been split into two.
Sources: Oak National Academy; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 6: Distributions of mean scores for exit and intro questions
Notes: Includes only questions that were present in both exit and intro quizzes. The '75' bin corresponds to questions with mean scores of 75% or more, but less than 80%, and so on for other bins.
Sources: Oak National Academy; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 7: Change in mean score between exit and intro quizzes
Notes: Includes only questions that were present in both exit and intro quizzes. The '-5' bin corresponds to questions that showed a drop of 5 percentage points or more, but less than 10 percentage points, and so on for other bins.
Sources: Oak National Academy; SchoolDash analysis.
  • Consecutive lessons, and associated quizzes, taken in quick succession
  • Other complementary study activities between Oak lessons
  • Natural knowledge consolidation between lessons
  • Statistical effects, especially when sample sizes are relatively small

Figure 8: Change in mean score between exit and intro quizzes, by Key Stage and subject
Key: RSHE = relationships, sex and health education; PSHE = personal, social, health and economic education; RE = religious education; DT = design and technology; PE = Physical Education.
Sources: Oak National Academy; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 9: Comprehension and retention by subject
Notes: Includes only questions that were present in both exit and intro quizzes.
Sources: Oak National Academy; SchoolDash analysis.
 

Are 'elite' sixth forms engines of progress?

"The UK Government will ensure that talented children from disadvantaged backgrounds have access to a post-16 provider with a track record of progress on to leading universities by opening new 16-19 free schools targeted in areas where they are most needed, such as high priority EIAs [Education Investment Areas]."

  • Out of 2,467 existing mainstream state sixth forms in England, we identify 438 institutions (17.6% of the total) that might be considered elite based mainly on the prior academic attainment of their students.
  • These are very unevenly distributed. Almost 19% of students in London attend an elite sixth form, but only about 8% of those in the West Midlands do. The differences by local authority (LA) are even more stark: of 150 LAs with secondary provision, 34 have no students at such institutions and a further 46 have less than 10%. Meanwhile, 19 LAs have more than 33% of students at elite sixth forms.
  • Among LAs with high proportions of students in elite sixth forms, the progression rates into higher education are much greater (around 51% versus 33%). This persists even after controlling for variations in deprivation, demographics and prior educational attainment. Proportionally, the differences in progression to top universities were even greater.
  • Notwithstanding other potential effects of highly academic sixth forms on the education system as a whole, there does indeed appear to be a case to expand proivision into underserved areas in order to support greater progress into higher education as a whole.

Figure 1: A-level value-added against A-level attainment for mainstream state sixth forms in England (2019)
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 2: Locations of elite sixth form colleges in England
 
Colour coding: Grammar schools. Attainment 8 > 55. High implied Attainment 8.
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 3: Proportions of students at elite sixth forms by region
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 4: Proportions of students at elite sixth forms by local authority
Note: Local authority areas are shown as they existed in 2019. A few have since been divided or merged.
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.

Figure 5: Sixth-form student characteristics of elite and non-elite local authority areas
 
Sample sizes: Elite LAs: 19. Similar non-elite LAs: 12. Non-elite LAs: 80
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.
  1. Attainment 8 scores are calculated using 2017 data since these correspond to the same cohort as the 2019 A-level data.
  2. The analysis of destinations uses 2021 data.
  3. 'Similar non-elite LAs' were identified by matching each 'elite LA' with the 'non-elite LA' that most closely resembles it in terms of proportions of pupils eligible for free school meals, identifying as white British and having English as an additional language. GCSE attainment, pupil population sizes and level of urbanisation were also taken into account. Finally, LAs in London were only matched with other LAs in London, and conversely for LAs outside London. The analysis was run using both non-exclusive matching (in which more than one elite LA could be matched with any given non-elite LA) and exclusive matching (which imposed the additional constraint that each elite LA had to be matched with a different non-elite LA). The former approach produces closer matches, but at the cost of a smaller set of 'similar' LAs. Ultimately, this made almost no difference to the final results, so the data presented here were generated using non-exclusive matching.

 

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