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New poll finds teachers think school closures will contribute to a widening of the word gap

New poll finds teachers think school closures will contribute to a widening of the word gap

08 July 2020

Following school closures brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, we collaborated with the Educational Research Forum to poll teachers and find out what impact they think remote learning will have on children’s vocabulary development.

Our original word gap report Why Closing the Word Gap Matters found that vocabulary development is a significant and widespread challenge to UK schools, and can have a profound impact on academic achievement and wider life chances. This can leave children without the vocabulary they need to access their learning and often resulting in low self-esteem.

Our recent poll revealed that 92 per cent of teachers believe school closures will contribute to a widening of the word gap, 73 per cent said that the impact on their students’ vocabulary development will be significant, and 68 per cent reported that those under seven years old will be most affected. Almost all teachers questioned said that while the word gap will be one of many key areas to be addressed once children return to the classroom, supporting their emotional wellbeing will take precedence. Many children will find the return to study and to school routines challenging and giving them the opportunity and time to talk will be the first priority. 

Later this year, OUP will publish a new report into the word gap in UK schools, focusing on primary to secondary school transition and taking into account the impact of recent school closures. Jane Harley, OUP’s Policy & Partnerships Director (Education), explains, ‘We remain totally committed to supporting teachers, children and parents in closing the language gap. Over the last year we have continued our research into children’s language development and, more recently, have focused on the challenges facing teachers as more children return to the classroom following school closures.

Extending from our original research, Oxford Language Report: Why Closing the Language Gap Matters, we will be releasing a new report this Autumn to reflect the latest thinking around the implications of the word gap and its impact on children, in the light of Covid 19. This will have a particular focus on transition. We hope that our insights, and the wealth of resources and practical advice for teachers and parents on how to boost vocabulary, increase talk and encourage reading over the summer will be of particular benefit to these children.’