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Understanding the impact of Covid school closures on parents - new research commissioned

Covid crop

ISER has been commissioned to a lead a new year-long research project, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, to assess the impact of school closures on parents.

The study, Covid-19 and school availability: impact on parental labour supply and wellbeing, will be led by Dr Birgitta Rabe, with Dr Laura Fumagalli from ISER, Dr Jo Blanden from the University of Surrey and Dr Claire Crawford from the University of Birmingham and the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

School closures have been an important feature of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic. These have a high direct cost to children, disrupting learning and impacting mental health. They are also costly for parents, as time must be spent on childcare that would previously have been spent on work or other activities.

This project focuses on parents and examines the impact of school availability and attendance on parental labour supply, family finances and mental health.

Government guidance on school reopening created differential access to childcare for parents with children in different year groups. Schools initially reopened for primary years R, 1 and 6 in June 2020. This means that, during the summer term, some parents no longer had to provide childcare during school hours, while others with very similar age children still had to do so.

Comparing changes in the outcomes of parents with children in year groups expected to return with those of children in other year groups will allow us to isolate the impact of access to school on parental outcomes. We will also explore the responses of schools and parents to this guidance, providing insights into which schools and parents were most likely to comply, and what effect children actually returning to school had on parents’ outcomes. Timely research on these issues will provide important insights into the likely consequences of any future school closures or reductions in capacity, including the possibility of longer-term effects on employment and family wellbeing for parents, especially mothers.