About us

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 on the difficulties families and children with intellectual disability and/or autism face going to school.

Our new study will look at the impact of COVID-19 on these children’s educational experiences. This time we are also recruiting parents whose child is not registered with a school (Elective Home Education). We are interested in understanding home learning experiences in families with a child with an intellectual disability and /or autism. This current research is 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 children with intellectual (learning) disability and/or autism. We have launched an important new study to understand the educational experiences of children with an intellectual disability and/or autism about a year after the COVID-19 pandemic started in the UK. 

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 children with intellectual disability and/or autism missed school. Then the pandemic disrupted everyone’s education. Approximately one year after the pandemic started, we will investigate

  • School attendance and reasons for absence among children with intellectual disability and/or autism who are registered with a school in spring 2021
  • Home learning experiences among children who are not registered to attend a school in spring 2021. We will also study the experience of home learning for those families whose child is registered with a school but had to stay at home during 2020/21.

The study is taking place between 2021 and 2022. An online survey will be live over the summer of 2021. We are collecting data from approximately 1,500 parents of 5 to 15 year-old children across all 4 UK countries. 

We work closely with our Parent Advisors who guide the study. Findings will be shared through this website, in journals and with education policy makers.  The study will provide evidence on the impact of COVID-19 on school attendance and home education, highlighting areas for improvement in educational policy and practice.

This research is funded by the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC), as part of UK Research & Innovation’s rapid response to Covid-19. 

Meet the team

UCL Team
Vaso Totsika

Vaso Totsika

Prinicipal Investigator



Vicky Nicholls

Parental Involvement Advisor


Nancy Kouroupa

Nancy Kouroupa

Research Fellow


Paula Beharry

Paula Beharry

Project Administrator


Amanda Allard

Amanda Allard

Deputy Director, Council for Disabled Children



Kylie Gray

University of Warwick


Richard Hasting

Richard Hastings

University of Warwick


David Heyne

David Heyne

Leiden University


Glenn Melvin

Glenn Melvin

Deakin University



Bruce Tonge

Monash University