Special education and Covid-19

This follow up research project, funded by The Nuffield Foundation, aims to explore:

What has changed in specialist education due to the Covid-19 pandemic 

The types of effects the pandemic ‘lockdown’ periods have had on the support provided to children and young people with EHC Plans in special schools and colleges

How children, young people and families have fared over this time

What is needed to support 'recovery' from this period 

How this period has been managed and lessons for future educational change. 


Who is carrying out the research?

ASK Research is leading the research in collaboration with the Institute for Education (at University College London). The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) is hosting the survey on our behalf.  All three research organisations are independent from Government. ASK Research specialises in research with providers and families of children with EHCPs (see ehcpjourneys.com) 

The Nuffield Foundation is an independent funding body that specialises in issues around social justice, welfare and education.

What will be involved?

The project will involve providers (Special schools and colleges) and families (parent/carers) of children and young people who attend special schools.

There will be two stages of work with Senior Leaders of special schools and colleges:

  • Stage 1 - Surveys – that will collect basic information about the respondent, details of their current provision and changes to their school/college offer and their experience of educational provision during lockdown. Surveys will also ask whether respondents would be willing to take part in the next stage.
  • Stage 2 - Interviews – these will explore individual experiences in more depth, looking at what factors have influenced what schools and colleges have been offering to pupils and families over the 12 months of the pandemic and how they are managing the wider return to education.

A selection of parents/carers previously interviewed will be re-contacted and invited to be interviewed again about their more recent experiences.

What is the purpose of the research?

It is important to capture the particular experiences of special education providers and families during the pandemic. The research is happening now so that it can feed into, and hopefully influence, discussions about next steps, support for recovery and lessons for any future changes to educational provision. Understanding what happened during this period will be useful not only to help explain children’s outcomes later in life, but, also to hopefully influence how children and young people with EHCPs, providers and families are supported over the next few months and under any future restrictions.

Why have I been contacted?

We are contacting all special schools/colleges in England to take part in this research. We want to hear from as wide a range of providers as possible.

What are the benefits of taking part?

By taking part you are helping to strengthen the messages given back to policy makers and government. You are helping to ensure children and young people who attend special schools have a voice and are considered when policy about what should happen in special schools is being developed.

Do I have to take part?

No. Taking part in the research is completely voluntary. You may withdraw at any time, without giving a reason. Noone will know which schools/colleges have taken part. Not taking part, or withdrawing, will not affect  schools' access to any services or input from us now or in the future.

Data and Your Rights

The legal basis for processing personal data is covered by:
GDPR Article 6 (1) (f) which states that the processing is necessary for legitimate interests.

This work fulfils our core business purpose of undertaking research, evaluation and information activities. It also has wider social benefit and will enable policy-makers and professional organisations to access up to the minute responses in relation to the current crisis, issues arising and potential solutions and therefore contribute to improving the lives of learners. The survey and interviews cannot be undertaken without processing personal data but should not cause damage or distress to data subjects. 

What data will be collected? 

We will collect any information you provide through the survey. For those volunteering to take part in an interview, we will record interviews (with school staff and families). This recording will only be heard by members of the research team. Notes will be typed up about what is said and these will be shared with the three organisations in the research team. Written data will all be made anonymous and the files will be password protected.

Why is ASK Research processing your data? Who will it be shared with?

ASK Research is the data controller who determines how data is collected and processed. NFER is the data processor for the provider survey. We will not share your personal data from survey responses or interviews with anyone else outside of the ASK Research team. Overall data findings will be shared with the IoE.

The survey will be managed and run using Questback software. Their privacy policy can be found here https://www.questback.com/data-privacy/privacy-policy/

How will we store data and how long for?

We will not keep your data for longer than it is needed. Once your data is no longer required, it will be securely disposed of. Anonymised interview notes and consent forms will be kept for 6 months from the end of the project before being safely destroyed. All project data will be destroyed within 12 months of the project end. This will be denoted by publication of a final report to the Nuffield Foundation.

Confidentiality: Anything you share as part of the research will be treated in confidence, except if you tell us something that means you or someone else is at risk of suffering significant harm. Only anonymised data and quotations will be used in the research report.

Your Rights

You have a number of rights relating to the information you provide. These include the right to access and request copies of your personal data, and may include the right to correct, restrict processing or to request erasure of your data. Should you wish to exercise your rights, or have any questions about how we process information, please contact our Data Protection Team at DataProtection@askresearch.org.uk

Who do I contact if I have further questions or concerns?

If you have questions please contact Director of ASK Research, Amy Skipp via amy@askresearch.org.uk