Written evidence submitted by Jeremy Horwood, Joanna Kesten, Judi Kidger, Beki Langford and Dr Ava Lorenc, University of Bristol


We are a team of researchers based at the University of Bristol/NIHR Applied Research Collaboration West. Over the summer we conducted the Back to School study, which examined the views of young people, parents, carers and school staff about the experience of education during lockdown and their views on returning to school. We undertook a rapid analysis of data from interviews conducted between 15th July and 4th September 2020.

Participants included

Our results speak to the issues raised by the inquiry, particularly around support for pupils and families during school closure and the impact on disadvantaged groups. All of the following information comes directly from our interviews with staff and families.

Support for pupils and families during school campus closures

Only one school had provided any 'live' online lessons for remote learning.

Disadvantaged groups

Lower socioeconomic groups

Staff were concerned that lockdown would increase the gap in educational attainment for families of lower socioeconomic status who had poorer access to space and technology for home learning. Learning for young people without computers/internet was particularly affected. The provision of laptops from the government was inadequate and came too late. Paper copies of work were sent out to these students, but could not be returned for assessment.

Black, Asian, or minority ethnic (BAME) communities

Staff were concerned about young people from BAME families returning to school due to the potential for them to spread Covid-19 to family members, given the additional risk of Covid-19 to BAME groups. Some BAME families were also concerned about this, and some felt these had not been adequately dealt with by the school.

Students with special educational needs (SEN)/mental health issues

There was consensus among staff that returning to school under the Covid-19 risk reduction measures would be particularly challenging for young people with SEN/mental health issues, for the following reasons:

One staff member was concerned about unknown long-term impact of lockdown on young peoples’ mental health and capacity to learn.


Suggestions from participants to support learning as schools re-open

Parents, young people and staff suggested a range of measures that would help:


Acknowledgement: We would like to thank the valuable contribution of our participants. This work is funded by National Institute for Health Research, Applied Research Collaboration West (NIHR ARC West) and NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Behavioural Science and Evaluation (NIHR HPRU BSE), and supported by NIHR School for Public Health Research. NIHR School for Public Health Research. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NIHR, the Department of Health and Social Care.


Findings should be referenced as: Lorenc, A. Kidger, J. Kesten, J. Langford, R. & Horwood, J. Back to School Study: Final Rapid Report, 14th September 2020, University of Bristol


September 2020