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New research project to understand the impact of Covid-19 on education inequalities

Dr Birgitta Rabe leads a major new ESRC research project looking at the impact of school closures on student achievements, inequalities in assessed exam grades and how confusion over A level grading made a difference to university participation

Crop covid school

Dr Birgitta Rabe will lead a new research project, Mind the Gap: Educational Inequalities during Covid-19, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, to analyse the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on educational outcomes with a view to understand whether some groups of students have been more negatively affected than others. The research team includes Professor Emilia Del Bono, Dr Angus Holford and Dr Laura Fumagalli.

The researchers will look at how the period of school closures has impacted students’ learning inputs, including parental help with homework and school provision of remote education, and how the attainment of current year 10 and year 13 students has been affected by the move to teacher-assessed grades.

It is widely expected that school closures will increase educational inequalities, including by gender, ethnicity and socio-economic background. However, it is possible that the full extent of the impacts will be much more nuanced, with high skilled parents having to combine remote working and home schooling, and wide variation in the provision of remote learning across schools.

Using monthly longitudinal data from the new Understanding Society Covid-19 survey, they will analyse changes in parental, students’ and schools’ learning inputs during the period of the pandemic, to assess whether educational inequalities have widened after the period of school closures. Using administrative data on GCSE and A-level grades from the universe of English pupils, they will explore the effect of teacher-assessed exam grades on educational inequalities, with a specific focus on socio-economic, gender and ethnic gaps. They will use UCAS data to examine the impact of A-level grading on higher education participation by background.

This project will provide policy makers and practitioners with the knowledge to successfully address inequalities in attainment and learning resulting from school closures.