IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Almost half of young people with long COVID reported lost learning

31 January 2023

Nearly half (45%) of all young people who reported having long COVID felt they had fallen behind their classmates due to the pandemic - with almost three in five (59%) saying that they had not caught up with lost learning - according to new research involving UCL.

A cartoon of eight masked students standing in a line

Led jointly by two IOE research centres - the Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities (CEPEO) and the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS), and the Sutton Trust, the COVID Social Mobility & Opportunities (COSMO) study is the largest study examining the impacts of the pandemic on young people.  

Published as a briefing, the study explores the health impacts and behaviours of almost 13,000 young people across England who were in Year 11 in 2021/22. Most of the cohort are currently in Year 13, if they are still in education. The briefing explores the incidence of COVID-19 and long COVID, and how this has affected young people’s education - including GCSE attainment using linked National Pupil Database (NPD) data. 

The study found that around half (52%) of young people who were asked to shield from the virus reported that they had fallen behind their classmates, compared to a third (33%) of those who were not asked to shield. The authors note that part of this difference is likely due to the underlying reasons that the person was asked to shield.

Those who were asked to shield were also more likely to say their GCSE grades were lower than they expected, at 36%, compared to 21% of those who were not asked. 

Pupils who had severe long COVID also achieved, on average, lower teacher-assessed GCSE scores than their peers who did not suffer from long COVID.  

Patterns of long COVID were also found to vary by young people’s social background. One in five (20%) comprehensive state school students who reported having COVID-19 either currently have or previously had long COVID, compared to one in six grammar and independent school pupils (16%). Furthermore, the study found that those from the most disadvantaged areas of the country are more likely to report long COVID, compared to those from the least deprived areas (25% vs 18%). 

COSMO Principal Investigator, Dr Jake Anders, said: “With attention on issues around COVID-19 fading, we should not forget its continuing effect on those for whom it was a particularly debilitating illness to experience. Some continue to suffer from long COVID. Even those who have recovered have seen implications for their wider lives and life chances, such as lower academic attainment scores for those who experienced severe long COVID. These impacts also seem to have reinforced existing health and socioeconomic inequalities.” 

COSMO is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to COVID-19.


Media contact

Evie Calder
Tel: +44 20 7679 8557
Email: e.calder@ucl.ac.uk


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