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Research project

Learning inequalities during the Covid-19 pandemic: a longitudinal analysis using the UK Understanding Society 2020 and 2021 data

Project overview

In recent research, Pensiero (PI), Kelly and Bokhove (Pensiero et al. 2020) used the Understanding Society (USoc) COVID-19 April 2020 survey to investigate the uptake of schoolwork in homes during the first Covid school closure. We use data from both April 2020 and January 2021 surveys, to analyse:

1) Whether the prevalence of schoolwork between the first and the second school closure has changed.

2) Whether the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged families in schoolwork has changed.

3) The extent to which the change in schoolwork and changes in differences between Socio-Economic Status (SES) groups can be explained by compositional effects, i.e. changes in observed circumstances such as acquisition of new computers and working patterns versus changes in behaviour.

4) In addition, we propose policies to mitigate the impact of the school closures on the learning gap by socio-economic group.

The research provides timely information to help schools and policy makers to quantify the loss of learning opportunities (proxied by the uptake of schoolwork in homes) and identify the socio-economic groups which have suffered more from this loss during the school closures. We engage with policies to mitigate the likely impact of the school closure on the learning gap by socio-economic group, such as academic tutoring, and providing students with better access to IT at home. The research is also be relevant for the decision regarding the timing and the types of school assessments to undertake in 2021, which is a key current concern for policy. Moreover, schools might close again in the near future due to a rise of the infection rate. Should this happen, our research will provide valuable information on the type and amount of distance learning which is likely to arise.


Lead researcher

Dr Nicola Pensiero

Associate Professor

Research interests

  • Educational inequalities
  • Social stratification
  • Social Theory
Connect with Nicola
Other researchers

Emeritus Professor Tony Kelly

Research interests

  • Education effectiveness
  • Education policy
  • Leadership and improvement
Connect with Tony

Professor Christian Bokhove


Research interests

  • Mathematics education in the classroom
  • Technology use in schools
  • Research methods
Connect with Christian

Collaborating research institutes, centres and groups

Research outputs