The impact of COVID-19 and the need for longitudinal research

Let us finish by offering just one area that requires urgent exploration by the education research community - the experience of those young people currently enrolled on GCSE or A level courses, or on equivalent courses where the pandemic has caused written examinations to be cancelled or postponed.

The class of 2020 and their successors in 2021, those who have just left Year 6, Year 11 or Year 13 and those who have just entered these year groups - those involved in studying for SATs, GCSEs and A levels in the shadow of the pandemic, those sitting Highers and Advanced Highers in Scotland during the same period and those on apprenticeship and similar vocational programmes will have powerful and unique stories to tell, but these personal stories are more than a set of individual narratives.

There is scope here for a body of comparative, longitudinal work that tracks the children and young people who have had examinations and assessments cancelled or adapted, or their immediate pre-assessment studies significantly interrupted, and those who were examined or otherwise assessed under the ‘old’ normalities in 2019. How, comparatively, will these groups fare as apprentices and undergraduates? How, again comparatively, will they fare in future employment markets and in income profile? And are there other, specific ways in which they might thrive or struggle because of their experience of lockdown, notably in terms of well-being and outlook?

Of course, there are multiple other research opportunities and needs, far more than one could identify in a section (or book) of this size, but the point is to identify and capture these. To fail to collate, curate and share educational lessons from the lockdown would be a missed opportunity to stress how important the contribution of educational research can be at this time; it would also be a dereliction of our duty and our purpose as researchers during a period when the foundations of an education system fit for the twenty-first century, not the nineteenth, might just be being laid. Let’s make sure that we play our part in the construction of education’s new normal, one that addresses at the outset the pervasive failings of that which it replaces.

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