COVID Social Mobility & Opportunities Study

The COVID Social Mobility & Opportunities study (COSMO) is a national cohort study of more than 12,000 young people from across England, who were in Year 11 in academic year 2020-21. The study will examine the short-, medium- and long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on educational inequality and social mobility. Fieldwork for the first wave of data collection began in autumn 2021, and the data is now available via UK Data Service. To learn more about the COSMO study design and data collection please visit the COSMO study website.

The study is a partnership between the UCL Centre for Education Policy & Equalising Opportunities (CEPEO), the Sutton Trust, and CLS, with CLS providing expertise on design and management of longitudinal studies. The first wave (begun in 2021) was funded by UK Research and Innovation as part of its COVID-19 rapid response fund, and the second wave is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, starting in 2022. Fieldwork is being carried out by Kantar Public.

Latest from COSMO

Initial findings from COSMO Wave 1

23 November 2022

Here you can read our initial findings from COSMO Wave 1 on the COSMO Study website. These examine a range of topics, including lockdown learning, mental health and future planning


Landmark study shows the impact of the pandemic on young people

13 October 2022 Four in five students report that their academic progress has suffered, and two thirds say their future educational plans have changed due to the pandemic.

New longitudinal study into the effects of COVID-19 on young people begins

23 September 2021

Tens of thousands of secondary school pupils across England will be invited to take part this week in COSMO – the largest study of its kind into the effects of COVID-19 on a generation of young people…

Study aims

COSMO is the largest study of its kind into the unequal effects of COVID-19 on a generation of young people. The study aims to capture the extent to which the pandemic is shaping educational trajectories, and how this varies across different groups.

When the pandemic hit the UK in 2020, Year 11 pupils were beginning to make important decisions about their futures. They subsequently faced two years of serious disruption to their education, including the ultimate cancellation of their GCSEs. The upheaval was unprecedented, with the consequences felt more deeply by those from disadvantaged backgrounds. COSMO will be a critical source of evidence for education policymakers and practitioners as they attempt to respond to these challenges.

Study design and content

Sample design

COSMO uses an area-stratified random probability sample from the National Pupil Database, with additional private school sampling, successfully recruiting more than 12,000 young people who were in Year 11 in 2020-21. The study oversampled young people from disadvantaged, ethnic minority and other traditionally hard-to-reach groups to ensure it reflects the full range of experiences of the pandemic.

Data collection

Wave 1 data collection involved web-first fieldwork (initial invite to an online survey, with targeted face-to-face follow up) with young people and parents. A second phase of data collection is currently in development, with fieldwork scheduled to begin in autumn 2022, once again following a web-first survey approach with targeted telephone and face-to-face follow up. All young people who took part in Wave 1 (along with their main parent) will be invited to take part.


The study covers how the disruption to schooling during the pandemic has affected young people’s educational attainment and wellbeing, as well as their longer-term educational and career outcomes.

Topics covered across questionnaires will include experiences of the pandemic, financial impacts in the home, disruption to schooling, access to home learning and school provision, attitudes to education, mental health and wellbeing, as well as GCSE assessment in 2021 and the crucial post-16 transition.

Each young person’s school will also be contacted with general questions about school provision and disruption during the pandemic, rather than questions about specific pupils.

A consultation on the content of Wave 2 was carried out in February 2022. For more information about the consultation, visit the COSMO website.

Special features of the study

Booster sample of academically able pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds

The Sutton Trust (study partner) has commissioned an additional sample of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who showed academic potential before the pandemic, to look in more depth at the impact on their chances for social mobility.

Linked administrative data

The study has been designed for linkage to administrative data from the National Pupil Database, the Longitudinal Educational Outcomes (LEO) dataset, as well as other sources, such as participation in the National Tutoring Programme.

Data access

COSMO data and documentation will be made available through the UK Data Service. Data from Wave 1 of the study is now available to view. To learn more about the COSMO study design and data collection please visit the COSMO study website.

Principal Investigator

Dr Jake Anders Associate Professor, and Deputy Director of the UCL Centre for Education Policy & Equalising Opportunities

Jake’s research focuses on better understanding the causes and consequences of educational inequalities, evaluating policies and programmes aiming to reduce these inequalities, and how best to do this evaluation. In addition to leading the COSMO study, Jake’s other work includes research projects for multiple UK government departments, such as work for the Department for Education into the transition from education into work, as well as leading multiple randomised evaluations, such as Education Endowment Foundation-funded work focused on improving teachers’ use of formative assessment. His doctoral research consisted of three linked studies considering aspects of socio-economic inequality in access to higher education in England, considering both the point of entry to university but also its precursors.


  • Professor Lisa Calderwood, CLS
  • Professor Alissa Goodman, CLS
  • Professor Lindsey Macmillan, CEPEO
  • Professor Praveetha Patalay, CLS and MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL
  • Professor Gill Wyness, CEPEO
  • Carl Cullinane, Sutton Trust
Contact us

Centre for Longitudinal Studies
UCL Social Research Institute

20 Bedford Way
London WC1H 0AL