The Covid Cohort Study

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Learning and Leadership


How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected socioeconomic inequalities in life chances, in terms of short-term effects on educational attainment and well-being, and long-term educational and career outcomes? This study will provide immediate findings to this and related research questions about the impact of the pandemic on educational inequality by SES, gender and ethnicity by designing, analysing, reporting on, and archiving two annual waves of a high-quality new cohort study of pupils in year 11 in academic year 2020-21 across England. This brand new resource will collect data from pupils, parents and schools, augmented with administrative data from DfE's NPD and other sources. Moreover, it will provide the start of a long-term resource for the research community to explore medium/long-term effects as participants move into further and higher education, and the labour market (with planned LEO consent questions).

Led by Dr Jake Anders, with Professor Lindsey Macmillan and Dr Gill Wyness (UCL CEPEO), Professors Lisa Calderwood and Alissa Goodman (UCL CLS) and Carl Cullinane (Sutton Trust), with Kantar as lead fieldwork agency, the team combines world-leading expertise in educational inequalities, social mobility, analysis of longitudinal data, and the design and management of cohort studies. Our bid is supported by key stakeholders, including DfE, ADR UK, EEF, TASO, OfS, and HEAT to ensure co-production of policy-relevant evidence. This study will fill an important gap in understanding of the medium and long term effects of COVID-19 on young people completing their education and moving into the labour market at this unprecedented time.


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Description COSMO Wave 1 Boost
Amount £158,155 (GBP)
Organisation The Sutton Trust 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2021 
End 05/2022
Description ADR UK 
Organisation Administrative Data Research Network
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution In COSMO Wave 1 we have included consent questions for data linkage to the Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) datasets. This will, in the future, allow for the follow-up of COSMO participants in LEO, including employment and earnings data. This will allow for long-term follow-up of these outcomes of members of our cohort, making use of the linked administrative data environment supported by ADR UK.
Collaborator Contribution As part of this collaboration, ADR UK has provided advice and guidance on the consent questions used and has agreed to work with us and relevant data owners to facilitate data linkage.
Impact The consent questions regarding linkage to LEO's constituent datasets in COSMO were informed by advice and guidance from ADR UK staff in order to ensure that this consent will allow for data linkage.
Start Year 2021
Description Department for Education 
Organisation Department for Education
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have liaised with civil servants at the Department for Education at key points throughout COSMO in order to ensure the design and analysis carried out in the study supported policy-relevant findings, insofar as this does not conflict with other scientific considerations.
Collaborator Contribution The Department for Education has provided letters of support for the continuation of COSMO and, through these letters of support, committed to engagement in our planning, analysis, and reporting of analyses and findings from COSMO. They are members of the project's advisory group, engaged extensively with feedback on questionnaire design, and further such activities. DfE's support has also meant we are able to mention this support on fieldwork documentation with an expectation that this is positive for respondent participation. The support was also crucial for attaining DfE approval to use the National Pupil Database as a sampling frame, with significant positive effects on the quality/representativeness of the study.
Impact Key outcomes from this collaboration have included significant co-design and co-production of elements of the study, notably the questionnaires. We anticipate this will increase the policy relevance of analyses and reporting from the study compare to what would have been possible without this collaboration.
Start Year 2021
Description Education Endowment Foundation 
Organisation Education Endowment Foundation
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution In COSMO Wave 1 we have included a consent question for data linkage to data held by the Education Endowment Foundation. This will, in the future, allow for the identification of COSMO participants who received support from National Tutoring Programme tuition partners, in order to allow for complementary evaluation of this programme to that which EEF are carrying out themselves. In particular, with more information regarding inequalities in uptake as well as on the impact of the programme.
Collaborator Contribution As part of this collaboration, the Education Endowment Foundation has provided advice and guidance on the consent question used and has agreed to work with us in the future to facilitate data linkage for the purposes of understanding NTP tuition partners participation among the COSMO cohort.
Impact The consent questions regarding linkage to EEF data in COSMO were informed by advice and guidance from EEF staff in order to ensure that this consent will allow for data linkage.
Start Year 2021
Description Sutton Trust 
Organisation The Sutton Trust
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution ?We are working closely with Sutton Trust throughout the course of COSMO, including them in all relevant scientific, management and communication meetings. The project's full-time research fellow is also spending time on placement with Sutton Trust throughout the project in service of our collaborative aims.
Collaborator Contribution The Trust's staffing contribution includes Associate Director of Research and Policy Carl Cullinane as a Co-Investigator on the project, at no cost to UKRI. It also includes expertise from the Trust's team across research, communications and policy/public affairs. The Trust has a significant media profile, with a demonstrated record of impact and communicating complex research findings to wide audiences, including a track record of front-page newspaper coverage and high-profile broadcast news items. We have been particularly prominent since the beginning of the pandemic in drawing public attention to the impact of Covid-19 on education. As well as leading on communication, we are leading on the policy and advocacy implications of the study findings, leveraging our experience and relationships with parliamentarians, ministers and policymakers across the political spectrum to maximise the policy impact of the study. The Trust provides the secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility, and regularly meets ministers and advisers both within the Department for Education and the Number 10 policy unit. The Trust brings significant value-added to the study through its relationships and profile, through media coverage, events, links with schools, universities and employers, and policy advocacy. The Trust also intends to fund activities such as events, report design and printing costs from its own finances, along with other costs, where it is deemed that this would significantly benefit the impact of the study.
Impact The design and initial communications around the project have benefited from Sutton Trust expertise, including on policy relevance of questionnaire content, launch communications, design of participant- and researcher-facing branding for the study, among other aspects.
Start Year 2021
Description CONSULTATION - COSMO Wave 2 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact From 1 February 2022 to 3 March 2022 CEPEO conducted an online consultation survey on the content and design of the second wave of the COVID Social Mobility and Opportunities (COSMO) study in England. 48 responses were received from stakeholders in academia, the government and the third sector. Whilst the majority of submissions were from academia, a significant amount, (21%) of submissions were from government. Marketing the consultation included email and social media campaigns which have further promoted the study and led to several offers of collaboration and idea exchanges.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
Description Launch media release and associated activity 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact A collaborative media release between UCL, Sutton Trust, and UKRI/ESRC was issued for 23 April 2022 in order to raise awareness of the launch of COSMO among the general public (particularly hoping to reach potential participants to increase familiarity if invited to participate) and policymakers. We achieved coverage in the national press ( and print edition page 11) and specialist press.
While we did not seek to direct solicit requests to participate (due to the probability sample design) a number were forthcoming based on the press coverage, indicating that we did manage to reach the intended audience in this respect.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021