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‘Data about children’s lives in the pandemic’: An ODI report

Team MyEd Written by Team MyEd

In November 2020, the Open Data Institute (ODI) released a rapid-response report, 'Data about children's lives in the pandemic', which looks at the pandemic's impact on children's lives, and the wellbeing of parents and teachers.

The research was conducted between September to October 2020, using new data made available to the ODI, as well as a combination of data from Barnado's and Mumsnet, open data from the Department for Education and Department for Work and Pensions and a survey with 6,500 teachers in England using TeacherTapp.

MyEd, an ODI startup alumnus, conducted 29 qualitative interviews with parents, teachers and pupils to put some real-life context to the findings.

Need for better data sharing and access to help people's needs

The report serves to highlight the lack of real-time and granular data about the effects of the Covid-19 crisis, the lockdowns and the disruption of schooling and family life on children's learning and wellbeing.

Most existing research, while providing valuable insights into the impact of school closures during the first nationwide lockdown, is, on average, published two-to-three months after data collection has been carried out. There is a lack of timely data, especially during a constantly evolving situation like the pandemic. Moreover, the source data (raw, unprocessed data) is often not published and not accessible.

To this, the ODI urged more civil society organisations to safely share the data they hold about children, teachers, and parents' needs. Access to up-to-the-minute information is essential for the government, teachers, headteachers and policymakers to develop strategies to help children who are hit hardest by emergency school closures due to the pandemic.

Access to data would also ensure that the evolving crisis's adverse effects could be detected and tackled responsively, and innovations can occur in new forms of support for all.

ODI Managing Director, Louise Burke, said:

'Without new and more detailed data, we cannot truly understand the impact of Covid-19 in real-time. The data is vital if we are to target resources effectively and respond to emerging issues in a prompt and timely way, through this second lockdown and what follows.

'Organisations, like Barnardo's and Mumsnet, that share their data – or make it open – in an ethical and safe way can help those who want to monitor, understand and address the challenges that teachers, parents and children are facing, and provide direct support.'


Data on how parents, children and teachers have been affected

The data collected by the report also revealed some worrying findings of the impact of the pandemic on teachers, parents and children.

The Barnardo's data revealed a rapid increase to almost 6,500 in the week commencing 12 October 2020 to a Barnardo's new See, Hear, Respond programme - a Barnardo's led programme with 83 partners, which aims to quickly identify and support children, young people and families who are struggling to cope with the impacts of coronavirus. The number of professional referrals dropped by approximately 90 in mid-July 2020, which coincided with the start of the summer holidays. Following the end of the summer holidays and when children were back at school, in early September 2020, the number of referrals from professionals increased week-by-week, rising from around 70 referrals at the end of August 2020 to nearly 300 referrals by 12 October 2020.

Analysis on posts from Mumsnet forum (a popular forum with parents) showed that the term 'stress' featured five times more frequently in education-related Mumsnet posts in April 2020 compared to January 2020, and 'mental health was among the ten most frequent phrases used in September 2020 in the education-related threads.

The TeacherTapp survey discovered 69% of teachers feel that one fifth or more of their class were behind in learning, with 8% believing that 'almost all' are behind. One in four (27%) of headteachers surveyed in October 2020 – compared to one in five in June 2020 – feel 'completely overwhelmed' (11%) or 'very anxious and stressed' (16%) by work.

Notes on data privacy and ethics

An ODI Data Ethics Canvas was completed and published with this piece of work alongside the report. The Data Ethics Canvas is a tool created by the ODI for anyone who collects, shares, or uses data to identify and manage ethical issues. All the data received from Barnardo's, Mumsnet, and TeacherTapp was aggregated and anonymised to protect the data owners' privacy and preclude any bias or unethical use of the data.

Read the full in-depth report here. The data collected for this project is publicly available via a dedicated, interactive webpage and tool created by ODI Leeds.

Team MyEd
Team MyEd

MyEd Ltd is a technology business working to transform the experience of learning. We create SaaS solutions that help councils, schools, colleges and nurseries to deliver their services to pupils and families more efficiently and effectively.

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