Catch-up programmes to repair learning loss in the Netherlands: overview of interventions and a literature review of their effectiveness
Following the outbreak of the coronavirus, school pupils were no longer able to attend school physically from around half-way through the school year, and teaching was then mainly provided online. Any learning losses that have accumulated as a result will have to be repaired, and schools could, and still can, apply for subsidies from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. Currently, 1,550 of the requests for funding have resulted in interventions that are already being implemented and, from October 2020, more programmes are due to start at schools that applied for funding after the summer holidays.
A monitoring study carried out by the research institute LEARN! and commissioned by NRO (the Netherlands Initiative for Education Research) and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science shows that funding requests in the first tranche mainly concern extended school days, additional support during school hours, and summer school. These interventions are targeted to pupils with learning loss in language or arithmetic and pupils who have progressed to the next year conditionally.
These catch-up programmes are, as per the condition of the subsidy programme, aimed at pupils who are lagging in performance due to the school closures (in primary and primary special needs education: in language and arithmetic; in secondary education: in the core subjects); many schools also include children with Dutch as a second language as a separate target group.
In primary education, the programmes also focus on socio-emotional development of students, while in secondary education (in particular upper vocational education), vocational education & training and secondary special needs education), interventions are used for pupils who lack practical experience because they were unable to do their practical placement in the period from March-June 2020.
Catch-up programmes are often offered in cooperation with external parties (e.g. homework institutes, sports providers, the municipality), but in all sectors schools are usually in charge of the content and structure of these programmes.
LEARN! also reported the outcomes of a rapid literature review about the expected effectiveness of these interventions and particularly one-to-one tutoring, remedial teaching, additional support materials, summer/holiday schools, teacher professional development, strengthening parental engagement, support during school hours, extended school days and peer tutoring. The review shows that the ‘active ingredients’ of all these variations are broadly comparable and are the number of hours per pupil, participation of the target group (and cooperation with parents/offering incentives to ensure participation), content and structure of the programme, qualified teacher, group size and alignment with the regular curriculum and classroom instruction. Teacher professional development, along with one-on-one tuition and peer tutoring, is one of the most effective interventions to repair learning loss. Effects are also long-term because the basic quality of regular teaching improves for all pupils.
For schools, LEARN! developed supplementary guidelines on how they can study the effectiveness of catch-up and support programmes themselves, using available performance data and a set of questions to answer. Further work has started in October 2020 to study the effectiveness of the programmes which are currently implemented and also portray a set of good practices, particularly of programmes which allow for long-term improvement in a time when schools will see continuing part or full closure.
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This text has been updated on 26.10.2020