Four out of five teenagers in England say their academic progress has suffered due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with state school pupils twice as likely to feel they have fallen behind than their peers in private schools, according to initial findings from a landmark study.
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Half of the 16- and 17-year-olds questioned said the Covid disruption had left them less motivated to study, while 45% felt they could not catch up with lost learning.
Meanwhile, two-thirds (64%) said their education plans had changed as a result of the pandemic, hinting at the long-term consequences for those who had long Covid-19 interruptions to their schooling.
The findings come from the first wave of data from the Next Generation study, which is tracking the lives of more than 15,000 young people in England born between 2000 and 2002.
The study, conducted by a team of researchers at UCL, will provide a unique insight into how young people have been affected by the pandemic and its aftermath.
“These findings are deeply concerning,” said Siobhan Freegard, co-founder of the parenting website ChannelMum.com.
“The long-term impact of Covid on children’s mental health and education is only beginning to be understood – but it’s already clear the pandemic has disproportionately hit poorer backgrounds.”
While the findings are based on a small sample of just over 1,000 young people, they are in line with other recent research on the impact of Covid-19 on pupils’ education.
A study by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) found that pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds were twice as likely to say Covid-19 had disrupted their learning than those from better-off families.
And a poll of more than 2,000 parents conducted by ChannelMum.com found that four in 10 believe their child has fallen behind at school since the pandemic began.
“This generation has already faced immense challenges, including knife crime, climate change and Brexit,” said Freegard. “Now Covid has hit them hard, with many facing months or even years of lost learning.”
She added: “It’s vital we do all we can to support these young people, both in the short and long term, so that they can fulfil their potential.”
The EPI study found that pupils from the most disadvantaged backgrounds were four times as likely to have experienced significant school disruption than those from the most advantaged families.
And the ChannelMum.com poll found that more than half of parents (51%) believe their child’s education has suffered due to Covid-19.
“These findings echo what we are hearing from parents up and down the country,” said Freegard. “Many are deeply worried about the impact Covid is having on their children’s education.”
While the impact of Covid-19 has been felt across all social groups, it has hit those from disadvantaged backgrounds particularly hard.
A study by the Resolution Foundation found that pupils from the poorest fifth of families are twice as likely to have experienced significant disruption to their schooling as those from the richest fifth.
And research by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) found that pupils eligible for free school meals were more than four times as likely to have missed out on three months or more of schooling than those not eligible.
“This pandemic has exposed and exacerbated deep inequalities in our society,” said Freegard. “Those from poorer backgrounds have been hit hardest in terms of their health and education.”
While the long-term impact of Covid-19 on young people’s education is still unclear, the findings of the Next Generation study suggest it could be significant.
“The pandemic has profoundly impacted young people’s education,” said Freegard. “It is vital we do all we can to support them, both in the short and long term, so that they can fulfil their potential.”
To find out more about the Next Generation study, visit www.ucl.ac.uk/next-generation.
What do you think of the findings? Are you worried about the impact of Covid-19 on your child’s education? Share your thoughts in the comments below.