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Study to track Covid’s long-term impact on pupils’ life chances

A study will look at the Covid legacy for Year 11 pupils.


A new study will track Covid’s long-term impact on the life chances of thousands of year 11 pupils.

The £4.6 million Covid social mobility and opportunities (COSMO) study will look at the pandemic’s long-term consequences for 12,000 participants’ education, careers and wellbeing.

Researchers at the Sutton Trust think tank and University College London plan to explore the impact of disruption to schooling, including disadvantaged pupils’ lower chances of having access to computers, internet and parental support with remote learning.

Letters will be sent to young people and their families inviting them to take part in September 2021. They will be asked via questionnaires and interviews about their experiences and attitudes towards home-schooling, cancelled exams and the pandemic’s impact on their health and wellbeing, as well as about their future educational and career hopes.

Their schools will also be asked to take part, providing details of their experiences of Covid and lockdown including “the challenges faced and the services they were able to offer.”

The study will follow young people for at least two years, with the aim to continue collecting data on participants as adults. They will be contacted again in September 2022 to track progress with A-levels, further education, work, or apprenticeships.

Sir Peter Lampl, chair of the Sutton Trust, said: “This major study should give us a clear picture of the long-term effects of the pandemic on this generation’s life chances.”

Dr Jake Anders, an associate professor at UCL’s Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities, said: “COVID-19 and its aftermath are a generation-defining challenge – the disruption to education will have long-lasting effects on young people’s life chances, with the most disadvantaged children facing the largest effects.

“The COSMO Study will provide vital new evidence on these unfair consequences, allowing us to plan how best to respond to this challenge.”

Researchers said the study would provide the “robust data” needed to inform policy decisions and school practice,  and mark the biggest study of its kind. The work will receive £4.6 million from UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body.

The government had already announced a £143,000 contract with Renaissance Learning last year for research into the extent of lost learning, and put an £85,000 contract out to tender in February to examine the harms caused by the pandemic.

Meanwhile polling company Ipsos MORI has been commissioned to look at how £650m in catch-up funding is being spent, in another research contract worth £190,000.

Graham Archer, the Department for Education’s director for qualifications, curriculum and extra-curricular, was grilled by MPs in February over the amount spent on “consultants” rather than the use of national assessments. He told the education select committee the department did not want to “burden schools or indeed pupils” with exams.

The Sutton Trust has also announced it will recruit an additional sample of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who showed “academic potential” pre-pandemic to investigate Covid’s impact on social mobility.



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  1. andrew32

    After a long study they will find that there is very little impact on student life chances. More able students will show that they are adaptable and will see this as an opportunity to demonstrate their adaptability. As for less able students, school experiences are not so important to them. School does little to help those going on to be a butcher, a plumber, a builder or a car mechanic other than teaching them basic English, Maths and a few social skills, something they have done by the end of year 9. Maybe the pandemic will highlight the fact that the majority of what children learn in schools these days is actually irrelevant to most. That is unless those doing the study are focused on maintaining their importance. How many schools are now actively using technology day to day in the classroom, something that the pandemic highlighted had become an essential medium for work? Unfortunately very few. Most schools have returned to the same old same old Victorian teaching methods that they are comfortable with, banning technology to continue in their ‘safe space’. Schools are in danger of stifling and holding back, particularly the more able students rather than take the opportunity to embrace and evolve