Identifying gaps and catching-up

Sarah Eggleton suggests some strategies and tips to help you plan how to assess your students, identifying gaps and start the process of catching-up.

Lockdown has resulted in the majority of students having received only 6 months of face to face education this year.

We know it has hit those children who are disadvantaged the hardest, but will of course have an impact on the learning of all our students, so how do we approach returning to teaching? Where are the students up to? How do we catch up on what we’ve missed?

Although we’ve tried to work on skills and knowledge remotely we know we’ve had varying rates of success even just engaging students in their work, nevermind being able to assess and monitor progress. We craft a skills / knowledge curriculum so our aim will be to try to capture what students can remember and have gained knowledge wise and what they can do and need to extend skills wise.

We Started with KS3 not including new yr 7’s:


We’ll be using quizzes and ‘5 minutes on’ tasks to refresh knowledge and interleave information we know they knew before they left school but have likely now forgotten. These will be low stakes, fun and fast. 


Knowledge completely missed is trickier.

For example, our KS3 students have all missed out on a unit of work on poetry – key knowledge needed to access the GCSE curriculum and future years in KS3. We can’t go back over one topic at the risk of missing out another completely, likewise we can’t miss something out completely.

We HAVE been setting work from home and for some students this work has been completed to a high standard. In my department we will use some lesson time to celebrate success with students and staff presenting some of the ‘best’ work and recapping information gained by completing these tasks.

We’ll ask students to note down key terms to create their own knowledge organisers and complete low stakes quizzes on them in the following weeks. This will ensure the work that has been completed by students at home is utilised (and crucially embedded into the long term memory).

For those who didn’t manage to engage at home there’s a second chance to capture the knowledge and learn it; this time with some face to face teacher help and a level of accountability via low stakes quizzing. 

I’m always grateful that we have core skills in English that crop up over and over again – it means our students are comfortable returning after gaps not using one skill or another. For example, if we complete a unit of work on writing and then complete one that uses more reading skills they are able to recall the skills needed to analyse language.  We also use an interleaved approach with the skills so we would reference those skills in all our SOWS regularly.

While students have been working from home, our work has focused on writing as it is easier to teach usually requiring fewer resources, unlike reading which students need extracts or books for. This means our analysis skills will have had a long break. We’ve tried to counteract this with the use of instagram and a ‘daily read’ with three questions to encourage engagement with texts. However uptake has been minimal to actually answer the questions. 

Again, we’ll aim to emphasise a fun ‘low stakes’ environment for the students to return to – to avoid them switching off or panicking if they can’t do something. Therefore, similarly to how we will build knowledge, we will practice the skills we can remember and celebrate successes.

One example could be reading a short paragraph and exploring the effects of language using mini whiteboards so students can make mistakes and easily correct them. We might increase the scaffolding to begin with then remove it step by step. We will capitalise on our existing reading lessons in KS3 to encourage conversation around reading and reference success criteria orally, modelling in our verbal answers what we expect to see in our written responses. 

Back to School

Once we’re clearer on when we will return to school full time we will look in more detail at mapping out these knowledge/skills catch ups into our SOWS.

We will ensure they are well spaced into the new learning students will experience as part of our English programme of study.

It is also worth noting; a large part of what students will have missed includes concentrating for long periods and writing independently for extended periods of time – the actual ability to learn and engage in a school environment.

Therefore I’ll be keen to explore how to ‘retrain’ students and build in increasing periods of time for extended independent written work as part of the SOW. This will include making sure the majority of activities in the first half term were well chunked and no more than around 20 minutes, building up to 45 minutes of independent writing/response by the time we reach the end of a half term.

Do you have any ideas on catching students up after remote learning? It feels like very unchartered territory so I’d love to hear some thoughts!

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You can find further information on current support for remote learning on the support for learning pages.