We are a team of researchers from the UK, Australia and the Netherlands. Most of us have been researching intellectual disability and autism for many years. Our collaborative research on school attendance started in 2015, under the name Kites (Kids and Teens at School). We launched a big study in Victoria, Australia, investigating school attendance among children with intellectual disability in special schools. Then in 2017 we did a study in the UK focused on school attendance of autistic children. These studies are now complete. They gave us unique insight into the difficulties families and children with intellectual disability and/or autism face going to school.
Our new study looked at the impact of COVID-19 on these children’s educational experiences. This time we also recruited parents whose child was not registered with a school (Elective Home Education). This current research was funded by the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC), as part of UK Research & Innovation’s rapid response to COVID-19.
About the current project
The COVID-19 pandemic brought many disruptions to children’s education, including the education of autistic children and/or children with intellectual (learning) disability. In 2021, we launched an important new study to understand the educational experiences of autistic children and/or children with an intellectual disability about a year after the COVID-19 pandemic started in the UK. The study was completed in 2022.
Education changed dramatically due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools closed in 2019/20. There was compulsory return to school in September 2020 with measures in place to control infection and new regulations about COVID-19-related absences. School attendance in the first term of 2020/21 was lower compared to other years. Many children were de-registered from school. In early 2020/21, there was a second prolonged period of school closures across the UK. The pandemic has caused many disruptions to children’s education.
Before the pandemic, many autistic children and/or children with intellectual disability missed school. Then the pandemic disrupted everyone’s education. Approximately one year after the pandemic started, we investigated:
- School attendance and reasons for absence among autistic children and/or children with intellectual disability who were registered with a school in spring 2021.
- Home learning experiences among autistic children and/or children with intellectual disability who were not registered to attend a school in spring 2021 but had to learn from home because of school closures due to national lockdowns.
- The experience of Elective Home Education in families whose autistic child and/or child with intellectual disability was de-registered from school sometime after the pandemic started (after March 2020) or before the pandemic.
The study took place between 2021 and 2022. An online survey was live over the summer of 2021. We collected data from approximately 1,234 parents of 5 to 15 year-old children across all 4 UK countries.
We worked closely with our Expert Parent Advisors who guided all aspects of the study: design, survey, data analysis, interpretation and dissemination. Findings are being shared through this website, in journals and with education policymakers. The study provided evidence on the impact of COVID-19 on school attendance and home education, highlighting areas for improvement in educational policy and practice.
Meet the team
Parental Involvement Advisor
Deputy Director, Council for Disabled Children
University of Warwick
University of Warwick