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NIESR awarded major grant to study the impact of COVID-19 on children’s educational, language, social & emotional outcomes


The National Institute of Economic and Social Research is delighted to have been awarded a grant from the Nuffield Foundation, worth approximately £500K, to examine the impact that the school closures and lockdowns related to Covid-19 will have on children’s language development, social & emotional skills, and educational outcomes.  The work will be led by NIESR’s Dr Claudine Bowyer-Crane, in collaboration with Dr Sara Bonetti from the Education Policy Institute and Dr Silke Fricke from the University of Sheffield.

Over a three-year period, the researchers will collect data on children’s language and socio-emotional development from Reception through to Year 2, as well as comparing statutory assessment data for three years before and three years following the onset of Covid-19.  

In addition, the project will collect teachers’ views on changes in the educational environment as a result of the pandemic. Parents will also be asked for their perspective on the impact of the Coronavirus crisis on their children’s development. Taken together, it will build a comprehensive picture of the impact of Covid-19 on children’s language and socio-emotional development, and early educational outcomes.

This ambitious study will combine qualitative and quantitative analysis and will provide the first comprehensive picture of the impact of Covid-19 on the early years of schooling and lead to some important policy lessons moving forward.

Dr Claudine Bowyer-Crane, Associate Research Director at NIESR and project lead, said:

We know from previous studies that the early educational experiences of children have a significant effect on them in later years. What we are not yet aware of are the long-term impact that Covid-19 will have on children’s language, socioemotional and educational outcomes. By following children over time and comparing data for the three years preceding Covid-19, with the following three years, we will build a comprehensive picture, which takes into account the children’s language backgrounds, family circumstances and experiences of lockdown.  This is a significant project, which we are confident will assist with future policy choices.”

Professor Jagjit Chadha, NIESR Director, said:

The critical importance of children’s educational development has been highlighted this past year, which may act to scar many a young person’s prospects. With the support of the Nuffield Foundation, Claudine and her team will be able to understand more fully the impact of lockdowns and school closures on early year’s attainment, and so provide policymakers with clear guidance as to where our immediate priorities should lie.”

Eleanor Ireland, Education Programme Head at the Nuffield Foundation, said:

The early years of schooling are critical for children’s later outcomes. We are very pleased to be funding this important study which will inform our understanding of the longer-term impact of the pandemic on young children’s language development and socio-emotional well-being during this vital stage in their development.

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