Children of the 2020s study

The Children of the 2020s study is a new nationally representative birth cohort study of babies born in England at the start of the 2020s. It has been commissioned by the Department for Education and will answer important scientific and policy questions regarding the family, early education and childcare determinants of early school success.

The study is being led by Professor Pasco Fearon (UCL Psychology and Language Sciences, the University of Cambridge, and the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families) in partnership with Ipsos. Study collaborators include the UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies, the University of Oxford, and Birkbeck, University of London.



Data access

Data from Wave 1 of the Children of the 2020s study are available for research purposes via the ONS Secure Research Service. Researchers who wish to use Children of the 2020s data will need to become an accredited researcher, and then apply for an accredited research project.

Information for parents

If you’ve been contacted to take part in Children of the 2020s, please head to the study website at to find out more about what the study involves.

Study design

The Children of the 2020s study sample has been drawn from HMRC Child Benefit records and includes parents with babies born in September, October, and November 2021. Approximately 8,500 families are being invited to take part.

The study is a five-wave longitudinal survey study of children from nine months to five years.  Face-to-face data collection will take place when the cohort child is nine months old (Wave 1) and three years old (Wave 3). Non-face-to-face modes will be administered using a sequential mixed mode design with online and telephone surveys when children are aged two (Wave 2), four (Wave 4) and five (Wave 5).

Data collection will include assessments of child development, neighbourhood and family context, family structure, health and mental health, the home learning environment, and formal and informal childcare provision and preschool education. The study will include ongoing linkages to both parent and baby education and health records.

Alongside the main survey, the study will also include data collection using an innovative smartphone app called BabySteps. BabySteps will enable us to capture rich developmental and home environment measures between study waves at low cost. Measures will include a combination of short questionnaires and video/audio recordings.

In order to assess the effects of early education and care, the study will also include innovative data collection using Teacher Tapp app technology. A separate sub-study of early care settings may also be included. This would involve live observations of around 600 childcare providers at ages three to four and four to five.

High quality, cleaned, and fully weighted datasets, along with data documentation and guidance following each wave of data collection will be produced, alongside non-response analyses and details of the weighting system applied.

Who funds the study?

The Children of the 2020s study receives funding from the Department for Education.

Are you a parent?

If you’ve been contacted to take part in the Children of the 2020s study, please head to the study website at to find out more about what’s involved.

Latest from the study


Today's parents still prioritise playtime, despite added pressures

30 November 2023 Four in five primary caregivers of nine-month-old babies reported cuddling, talking and playing with their little one several times a day, in the first national long-term study of babies in over two decades, led by UCL.

Thousands of babies to join new national study of child development

31 May 2022 Families across England are set to make history from next week as they join the first new national birth cohort study of babies to be launched in more than two decades, at a time of huge significance for the country as it emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Duchess of Cambridge visits CLS to learn about Children of the 2020s study

5 October 2021 Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cambridge today visited CLS to learn about the new Children of the 2020s study, and the invaluable contribution the centre’s existing birth cohort studies have made to our understanding of early child development.

Key features of the study

Approach to sampling

A nationally representative sample of approximately 8,500 babies will be recruited from across England, with boosted representation of babies in the lowest quintile of disadvantage.


Data collection frequency

We will survey participants annually. The first data collection will take place when the cohort members are nine months old and the last one when they are age five.

Linked data

There will be a big focus on linking administrative data to the survey data we collect. With participants’ consent, we will link education data, held by the Department for Education, and NHS digital health records to the study data.

Innovative data collection methods

The survey data we collect will be enriched with in-home observation and smartphone apps.

Leadership team

Pasco Fearon UCL Chair in Developmental Psychopathology

Phone: +44 (0) 20 7679 1244

Professor Pasco Fearon is a leading expert in early child development, specialising in early parenting, attachment, parental mental health and the development of children’s emotional and behavioural problems.

Pasco is a Clinical Psychologist and Professor at the University of Cambridge and UCL. He is Director of the Centre for Family Research at the University of Cambridge and the Developmental Neuroscience Unit at the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families (AFNCCF). He has extensive expertise in longitudinal research in the infancy and early childhood period, and in the measurement of the home environment and children’s cognitive and emotional development.


Lisa Calderwood Managing Director of CLS and Co-Director of the Early Life Cohort Feasibility Study

Phone: 020 7911 5510

Lisa is a Professor of Survey Research. She has over 20 years’ experience of the design and implementation of complex, large scale longitudinal surveys.

Her research areas include non-response, innovations in participant engagement, new technologies and mixed-modes of data collection, administrative data linkage and integrating bio-measures in social surveys. Lisa has strong national and international networks within the cohort studies community, is a co-ordinator for the cohort network of Society of Lifecourse and Longitudinal Studies and is involved in the European-wide COORDINATE and GUIDE initiatives.

Alissa Goodman Professor of Economics, Director of CLS and Co-Director of the Early Life Cohort Feasibility Study

Phone: 020 7612 6231

Alissa Goodman is Professor of Economics, Director of the Centre for Longitudinal Studies, and Co-Director of the Early Life Cohort Feasibility Study, a project funded by ESRC to test the feasibility of a new birth cohort for the UK. She is a Co-Investigator on two further new national cohort projects, Children of the 2020s and the COVID Social Mobility & Opportunities Study. Alissa joined CLS in 2013 as PI of the 1958 National Child Development Study, having previously worked at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, where she served as its Deputy Director (2006-2012), and Director of its Education and Skills research sector.

Alissa’s main research interests relate to inequality, poverty, education policy, and the intergenerational transmission of health and wellbeing. Alissa was awarded a CBE for services to social science in 2021.

Sandra Mathers Senior Researcher, Department of Education, University of Oxford


Sandra has a strong track record in policy-relevant research on early years education and care (ECEC), with a strong focus on educational inequality. Her experience includes longitudinal studies (A Better Start, Millennium Cohort Study (MCS)), evaluations of government initiatives (Early Education Pilot for Two-Year Old-Children, Graduate Leader Fund (GLF)), early language intervention (URLEY, Talking Time, Texts for Talk) and measure development (the OLP tool for assessing knowledge of oral language pedagogy).

Sandra is a leading expert in the assessment of ECEC quality, and in training and leading observation teams as part of large-scale studies (MCS, GLF, Early Education Pilot, URLEY). She is highly knowledgeable about both policy and practice and has advised the Department for Education (e.g. Expert Panel on EY apps/Hungry Little Minds, EYFS revisions), the Education Endowment Foundation (e.g. EY toolkit, EY Literacy Guidance Report) and Ofsted.

Sarah Knibbs Head of Education, Children and Families, Ipsos MORI

Sarah leads on Education, Children and Families research at Ipsos-MORI and has 18 years experience in survey research. She has extensive experience directing longitudinal studies involving families. She directed the Flying Start evaluation surveys of parents (two waves) which involved implementing child assessments from the British Ability Scales. She directed the Better Start evaluation pilots among parents of young babies and she oversaw the development phase of the Millennium Cohort Study age 14 and 17 surveys. Sarah sits on the Public Affairs Management Committee at Ipsos-MORI.

Project team

Scientific team

Adele Bearfield (Ipsos)

Tania Borges (Ipsos)

Kavita Deepchand (Ipsos)

Chris Ferguson (Ipsos)

Kevin Pickering (Ipsos)

Emma Rimmington (Ipsos)

Konstantina Vosnaki (Ipsos)

Prof. Julie Dockrell (UCL Institute of Education)

Dr Marialivia Bernardi (UCL Psychology and Language Sciences)

Dr Laurel Fish (UCL Psychology and Language Sciences)

Prof. Lindsey Macmillan (UCL Institute of Education)

Prof. George Ploubidis (UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies)

Prof. Jacqueline Barnes (Birkbeck, University of London)

Dr. Claire Crawford (University of Birmingham)

Collaborators and advisors

Prof. Claire Hughes (University of Cambridge)

Prof. Lane Strathearn (University of Iowa)

Prof. Terrie Moffitt (King’s College London)

Prof. Paul Ramchandani (University of Cambridge)

Kevin Lowe (CoramBAAF)


Contact us

Centre for Longitudinal Studies
UCL Social Research Institute

20 Bedford Way
London WC1H 0AL


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