DfE to gather data on thousands of pupils and parents to support coronavirus policy response

Department is to set up an online research hub to conduct regular surveys

Credit: Bart Everson/CC BY 2.0

The Department for Education is to create on online platform to gather information on the effect of coronavirus on thousands of pupils and parents throughout England.

The department is shortly to assemble a panel of 2,500 secondary school students and their parents, as well as 2,500 parents of primary-school pupils. This group, drawn from across the country, should constitute a “nationally-representative sample”.

Between August and January 2021, panel members will be regularly asked to complete online surveys about the impact of coronavirus on education and the lives of children and their families.

The DfE said: “Potential areas of interest include but are not limited to: the types of learning activities children are engaging with outside of school; support for vulnerable children; the effect of the pandemic on future education plans; parents’ awareness of communications around school opening; and mental health and wellbeing.”

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The aim is to create “robust, representative data” that can be used to support policymaking and allow officials to better understand the impact of the current crisis over a period of time.

“Survey questions will be developed ahead of each wave to meet urgent and priority data needs,” the department said.

The panel will be assembled by selecting “a stratified random probability sample of pupils from the National Pupil Database”. 

Those selected will be contacted via post and asked to complete a 15-minute survey online or, if they prefer, over the telephone. Upon completion of the survey, parents or pupils will then be asked if they would be willing to participate in the panel.

Between August and mid-October, the DfE plans to ask parents to complete a five-minute survey about once every two weeks. Pupils, meanwhile, will be quizzed once a month. From October to January, the frequency of all surveys will likely be monthly.

The aim is to conduct as much of the research as possible online, but the department wishes to retain the option of offering those without internet access to take part via telephone.

A contractor will be appointed to run the programme and, “given the need for timely data”, the chosen firm will be expected to work quickly, with surveys running between Wednesday evening and Sunday evening, and a 10-page summary of their findings provided to the department by the following Wednesday.

“As an estimate, we would expect after the first few surveys around 40% of the questions would be repeats from previous waves and the rest would be comprised of new questions,” the DfE said. “The department will liaise with policy teams internally to gather and prioritise questions and will provide a list of draft questions to the contractor. We would expect the contractor to help with designing the questionnaires prior to each wave and rapidly cognitively test new questions which we feel might be problematic.”

Companies wishing to bid for the work have until 10 June to bid for the contract, ahead of a scheduled start date for the project of 6 July.


Sam Trendall

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