IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


IOE research centre wins bid to study school returners’ wellbeing and aspirations after lockdown

21 August 2020

The Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities (CEPEO) at UCL Institute of Education (IOE), have been awarded new UKRI funding to conduct a year-long study into the impact of COVID-19 lockdown on young people.

Assortment of coats in a primary school corridor. Image: Phil Meech for UCL Institute of Education

Most young people have not been to school or college since March, and will be returning in September from an unprecedented six-month absence.

The new study, designed in partnership with Kantar, Department for Education (DfE), and Wellcome, follows up members of the 2019 Science Education Tracker (SET), an established representative survey of secondary school pupils in England. This will provide rigorous timely evidence to policy makers and education leaders on the differential effects of the pandemic and the unprecedented school closures, including cancellation of exams, on pupils' transitions, motivations, wellbeing, and aspirations.

The study will assess whether 1) prolonged periods of school closures, 2) the cancellation of examinations and 3) experiences of returning to education have differential impacts on wellbeing, motivations, and transitions into further and higher education by SES, gender and ethnicity.

It will also ask whether these experiences have changed pupils’ aspirations for further study and future careers, as well as providing insight into the mechanisms that drive these changes, including differences in home learning experiences.

“The Covid-19 pandemic is likely to become the most transformative event in our lifetimes,” said Centre Director and Principal Investigator of the study, Lindsey Macmillan.

“There is a critical need for high quality, up-to-date data on the experiences of young people during and in the aftermath of lockdown, particularly socio-economic, ethnic, and gender inequalities in these experiences.

“The Centre hopes its evidence will inform teachers, education leaders, and policy makers on action needed to mitigate the effects of the lockdown and cancellation of exams as schools and colleges return to full capacity.”

Led by Professor Lindsey Macmillan, with Dr Gill Wyness and Dr Jake Anders from CEPEO, and Professor Patrick Sturgis from LSE, the team combines world-leading expertise in design and analysis of large-scale survey data with disciplinary expertise in educational inequalities. The Centre will partner with the DfE and Wellcome to ensure the co-production of policy-relevant evidence.

While the study is restricted to England, the findings from the report are likely to be highly relevant to the devolved nations, which have experienced similar periods of school closures, exam cancellations, and home schooling.

The fieldwork will take place in October 2020, as many young people settle back into education. This will provide timely evidence during a crucial period of schools and colleges re-opening.