The impact of COVID-19 on mainstream schools in England

Researchers: Caroline Sharp | Julie Nelson ...

Project overview


This project will explore the responses of different types of schools to the COVID-19 emergency. It will identify the impact on pupils and teachers and explore whether the crisis is having a differential impact on certain groups.

Schools in England closed on 20 March 2020, other than for vulnerable pupils and children of key workers, and national exams were cancelled. These events represent an unprecedented disruption to the education of children and young people. Schools are unable to carry out their normal activities to support children’s learning, wellbeing and to prepare them for transition, and are instead attempting to provide learning activities for pupils at home. Identifying the most effective approaches can inform future action by schools, those that support them, and the government. This research will look at four main areas of schools’ responses:

  • remote support for pupils, including those at risk of falling behind
  • provision for vulnerable children and children of key workers, within schools and remotely
  • support for teachers, variations in workload and job satisfaction
  • and plans for, and experience of, reopening during or after the crisis.

All mainstream primary and secondary schools in England will be invited to take part in the online survey. The first wave of the survey will take place in early May, focusing on immediate responses to closures and initial plans for return. The second wave will be carried out in mid-July, focusing on reopening, plans to support transition and catch-up, and longer-term implications of the response to COVID-19. Separate surveys will be designed for primary and secondary schools, reflecting the nature of the challenges these schools will be facing. Senior leader responses will provide a school-level view, and a range of teachers per school will be asked about individual experiences, practices and concerns. The researchers anticipate 2,955 schools may take part, giving a sample size of 8,865 teachers and senior leaders. As an incentive for participants, if the survey reaches its expected response rate, £5,000 per wave will be donated to charities supporting the national response to COVID-19.

After collecting and quality-assuring the data, the researchers will calculate weighting factors to ensure the sample is representative of the wider population. The dataset will be matched to the Department for Education’s Get Information About Schools and School Performance Data, enabling analyses by school type, size, location, disadvantage (by Free School Meals eligibility), attainment outcomes and Ofsted judgement. Analysis for each survey question will show how responses differ for each school characteristic determined to be important in understanding variation between school types. Key outcome variables include levels of pupil engagement with set work, changes in working hours and teacher job satisfaction levels. Data will be collected, analysed and reported in as short a timeframe as possible, to maximise its use for policy and practice.

This project will provide evidence for the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on pupil engagement and on school staff. Key findings will be published after each wave of the survey, highlighting messages for school leaders, teachers and policy makers to move understanding and provision forward. As well as engaging with national media, unions and sector media, NFER will hold virtual meetings with the DfE, Special Advisors and MPs, with a focus on informing changes that directly benefit pupils.

Team


  • Caroline Sharp
    NFER
  • Julie Nelson
    NFER
  • Megan Lucas
    NFER
  • Simon Rutt
    NFER
  • Afrah Dirie
    NFER

  • Director, Education
    Nuffield Foundation

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We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We are an open, collaborative and engaged funder that offers more than money. Through connecting the individual projects we fund, we strengthen their collective impact and give voice to an overarching narrative.

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