12,000

Young people taking part in the study.

500+

Schools across the country surveyed.

£4.6m

Funding provided by UKRI/ESRC for the first two years.

OVERVIEW

COSMO is a collaboration between the Sutton Trust, the UCL Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities (CEPEO) and the Centre for Longitudinal Studies, with fieldwork led by Kantar Public.

The first phase of the study will conduct two annual waves of data collection from a sample of 12,000 young people in Year 11 (15 and 16 year olds) in the academic year 2020-21 across England. This group is at a crucial stage in their education, making significant choices this summer on their future pathways, after two school years of unprecedented disruption and cancelled GCSE exams. The study will disproportionately sample young people from disadvantaged, ethnic minority and other hard-to-reach groups to ensure it reflects the full range of experiences of the pandemic.

Fieldwork will begin in autumn 2021, surveying these young people, along with their parents and schools. The first findings from the study will be published in early 2022, with data from the study made available as a resource for researchers in the UK and worldwide.

The first two years of the study is funded with a grant of £4.6m from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), along with the Economic and Social Research Council. The study team is led by Dr Jake Anders, with Professor Lindsey Macmillan and Dr Gill Wyness (UCL CEPEO), Professors Lisa Calderwood and Alissa Goodman and Dr Praveetha Patalay (UCL CLS), along with Carl Cullinane (Sutton Trust).

Topics covered in the first year

Disruption to schooling and home learning

Financial impacts of the pandemic

Family health and mental wellbeing

Cancelled exams and teacher assessed grades

Transitions to Sixth Form, Further Education and Apprenticeships

The 'Opportunity Cohort'

The Sutton Trust, with the support of XTX Markets, is funding an additional ‘sample boost’ of around 1,000 pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds who showed academic promise at a young age, a group with particular potential for social mobility.

This will help us to understand in much greater detail the experiences of this group compared to other pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as better-off pupils of similar ability, in order to understand the different barriers faced. The findings will help to inform the Trust’s programmes and policy advocacy work.

FAQ

How can I / my child / my school take part in the study?

To ensure the study recruits a sample that is representative of young people across England, families will be randomly contacted by mail. If your family receive a letter because your teenager is in Year 11 in the academic year 2020-21, we strongly encourage you to take part so your voice is heard as part of this research.

For state schools: The input of teachers is hugely important to the research, so if your school is selected and receives contact from our fieldwork partner Kantar Public, we would appreciate if you, or a relevant colleague with some knowledge of your school’s 2020/21 cohort of Year 11s could participate.

For independent schools: Because of data availability, Kantar Public will be contacting independent schools directly to participate. Involvement of the independent sector is vital for the study in representing the full range of experiences during the pandemic. Your school’s participation and help with the research will be invaluable in learning lessons from the past year.

 

Why is this study only in England?

To set up the study quickly enough to recruit the 2020-21 cohort of Year 11s, it needs to build on pre-existing data infrastructure, but this varies significantly between the constituent countries of the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, achieving a representative sample of young people across the whole UK in this timescale would not be possible. However, the study is working closely with existing studies of children in Scotland (Growing Up in Scotland) and Wales (the Schools Health Research Network) to align data collection and ask similar questions so that all three studies can learn lessons about the effects of COVID–19 across Great Britain.

Why does the study focus on Year 11s?

This study uses a ‘cohort’ approach to look at young people at the same stage of their education when the pandemic hit, and then follow them into the future to explore how different factors influence that journey. This year’s Year 11s have faced two disrupted school years, cancelled GCSEs and will be transitioning to post-16 pathways at a time of great disruption. They are at a particularly crucial point in their education, though of course young people of all ages have been impacted by the pandemic.

Who is running the study?

The study is a cross-organisational collaboration led by the UCL Centre for Education Policy & Equalising Opportunities (CEPEO), the UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies and the Sutton Trust. The team combines world-leading expertise in education, social mobility and the design, management and analysis of longitudinal cohort studies.

CEPEO and CLS will lead on the design, management and delivery of the study. Kantar Public will conduct the fieldwork, along with NatCen Social Research. The Sutton Trust will leverage its extensive experience in communicating research to a wide audience and policy influence to lead on maximising the impact of the findings.

How will the study ensure that it reaches ethnic minority and other disadvantaged groups?

Using evidence from previous cohort studies, the study has plans in place to ensure strong representation of disadvantaged, ethnic minority and other groups at risk of social exclusion within the sample. As part of this, we will be inviting more students from these groups to take part (oversampling), in order to reflect the full breadth of experiences of the pandemic.

How will the findings be used?

Each year we will publish a report on the key findings from that year’s survey, across all the areas covered by the study. The data will then be made available to researchers and organisations across Britain and around the world. We will be working with key partners such as the Department for Education and the Office for Students to maximise the policy impact of our findings. The Sutton Trust will also use learnings from the study to develop our own programmes for young people.

The first findings will be published in early 2022.

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