Children and Young People Statistics in the pandemic

3 August 2021
Last updated:
3 August 2021

Annex: Some of the statistics we looked at

This annex includes a selection of the published statistics that we looked at during this review. It is not an exhaustive account of all the published, and unpublished, data that has existed to assist in the development and evaluation of public policy during COVID-19.

Statistics and data related to lockdowns

Throughout the pandemic, governments across the UK have frequently made the decision to impose ‘lockdown’ restrictions on society, including on retail, travel and socialising. Data has been used to inform these decisions, including data on the prevalence of the COVID-19 virus amongst the UK population, hospitalisation figures, death rates and data on social and economic impacts.

COVID Infection Survey (ONS). The COVID-19 Infection Survey (CIS) produced by the ONS reports on the percentage of the population testing positive for COVID-19 and whether they have symptoms or not. The CIS surveys approximately 150,000 people across the UK who are tested every fortnight. The survey covers all age categories, including children as young as 2 years old with parental permission.

COVID Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (ONS). ONS’s COVID Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) is based on a sample of 6,025 adults (although varying response rates mean the actual number is often closer to 4000) aged 16 years and over in Great Britain. It asks various questions on attitudes to lockdown, wellbeing and compliance with lockdown rules. Questions are regularly adapted to account for the changing circumstances of the pandemic.

The ONS produced one ad hoc release in 2020 – ‘Coronavirus and the social impacts on young people in Great Britain’ – which provided an in-depth analysis of the results of the OPN for 16-29 year olds between April and May of 2020. The release looked into the impacts of the pandemic across areas such as work, education, finances and well-being. There has also been a specific release on Coronavirus and homeschooling.

Mental Health of Children and Young People in England 2020 (NHS Digital ). In 2020, NHS England surveyed trends in child mental health in order to describe the circumstances of 5- to 22-year-olds and their families during the coronavirus pandemic. The 2020 survey followed up on face-to-face interviews of 7885 children conducted in 2017. The 2020 sample covered 3570 of the original respondents. Results from the study were published in October 2020, within three months of completing data collection.

Workless Households (ONS). The economic impact of lockdown, and in particular the impact on unemployment, has been widely reported on throughout the pandemic. Most of the official household surveys and statistics on income-based poverty are produced with a significant time lag, which means they cannot yet provide any analysis of the impact of the pandemic. However, ONS does produce quarterly statistics on ‘working and workless households’ with only a 3-month time lag.

The statistics describe the economic status of households in the UK and the people living in them, where at least one person is aged 16 to 64 years, using data taken from the Labour Force Survey. As part of this, ONS release data tables on the number and percentage of children living in workless, working and mixed households, where ‘children’ are defined as being under 16 years old. There is little official data on the economic impact of the pandemic on children beyond this.

Administrative data on hospital admissions and deaths

As part of its suite of statistics on hospital activity related to COVID-19, NHS England produces an analysis of hospital admissions by age group for England on a monthly basis. These provide breakdowns by age categories including 0-5, 6-17 and 18-54.

NHS England also produce administrative data on daily and weekly deaths from COVID-19 in hospitals in England (not including deaths that happen in the community), which include a 0-19 age bracket.

Official administrative deaths data with relevant age breakdowns are also available for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

ONS also release provisional counts of the number of deaths registered in England and Wales, by age category on a weekly basis. The age categories are given at 5-year breakdowns.


Statistics and data related to school closures

On a number of occasions over the last 15 months, governments in the UK have taken the decision to close schools and other early years settings to most children in an attempt to limit the spread of coronavirus. Timely statistics were needed to understand the impact of these decisions.

COVID-19 Schools Infection Survey (ONS). The COVID-19 Schools Infection Survey, run by ONS, aims to investigate the prevalence of coronavirus infection and the presence of antibodies to COVID-19 among pupils and staff in sampled primary and secondary schools in England, measured at half-termly intervals during the school year.

The NHS also produce Test & Trace Weekly Statistics using administrative data. They include breakdowns by ‘phase of education’, which provides an indication of the number of positive tests reported in different educational settings.

Attendance in education and early years settings during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak (DfE).The Department for Education has published data on attendance in education and early years settings in England over the course of the pandemic. We conducted a ‘rapid review’ of these statistics in 2020 to assess their compliance with the Code of Practice for Statistics. In this review, we commended the rapid development and publication of these data to support understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on school attendance in England.

Similar data are also available in WalesScotland and Northern Ireland.


Statistics and data related to university closures

During the COVID-19 pandemic, significant restrictions have been put on higher education institutions. Face-to-face teaching has been cancelled for many courses where it is not deemed to be essential, students have been asked not to return to university campuses after holidays and university facilities have seen various extents of long-term closures.

Student COVID-19 Insights Survey (ONS). In an attempt to understand the attitudes and behaviours of the UK’s student population during the pandemic, the ONS launched the Student COVID-19 Insights Survey and have published the results of this in a number of iterations of the ‘Coronavirus and higher education students’ publication.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Reporting in Higher Education Providers (DfE). This ad hoc publication from the Department for Education provides a summary of confirmed COVID-19 cases known to higher education providers (HEPs). It reports on weekly breakdowns of confirmed cases along with numbers of students known to be self-isolating. The statistics provide tailored insight that it would not be possible to obtain from the weekly testing figures produced by NHS England.

There were 237 HEPs in scope of the data collection, out of 420 registered with the Office for Students – primarily due to the exclusion of further education colleges from the data. Response rates have generally been high – with most recent figures putting them between 76% and 78%.

Although the publication covers only HEPs in England, similar data is produced by the Welsh Government for HEPs in Wales.


Statistics and data related to learning loss

In light of the school closures that have taken place throughout the pandemic, most children and young people have had to make the difficult transition to remote-learning. Governments have also taken the decision to cancel end of year examinations for young people, in light of the lost learning they have suffered over the pandemic and the difficulties in running the exams.

Understanding progress in the 2020/21 academic year’ (DfE). The Department for Education commissioned research by the Education Policy Institute and Renaissance Learning to understand the extent of lost learning during the pandemic. The first release in January 2021, compared results achieved by pupils in commercially available (non-statutory) assessments in the first half of the 2020/21 autumn term to pupils in previous years, in order to provide an estimate of the level of learning loss.

An additional report published in June 2021, linked the findings with data held by DfE in the National Pupil Database in order to provide analysis by pupil characteristics (such as eligibility for free school meals, and pupil ethnicity). The new analysis also covered assessments carried out in the second half of the autumn term in 2020/21, to provide an initial indication of whether pupils had started to make up for the ‘lost learning’ identified in the first report.

Non-official statistics

In addition to the official statistics and data on children and young people produced or commissioned by government departments, there are also a wealth of non-official data produced by research bodies, academic institutions and think tanks over the pandemic.

This resource published by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health provides a list of the wide range of data sources on the impact of the pandemic on children and young people. This list includes examples of a number of organisations, which are predominantly outside of government, who have produced detailed, timely and robust data on the social impacts of COVID-19, lockdowns and school closures on children and young people:

‘Coronavirus and me’ – Children’s Commissioner for Wales. This consultation captured 23, 700 children in Wales between the ages of 3 and 18. The report describes its purpose as being to ‘make sure that children and young people experience their right under the UNCRC to express their view and participate in decisions and affect their lives’.

The survey asked children and young people – amongst other things – about their worries during the pandemic, their experience of remote learning and what has impacted them most. Alternative methods for responding were offered for children without access to electronic devices or the internet and children aged 3-7 were encouraged to respond with drawings and pictures, to increase the accessibility of the survey for younger age groups.

The report also included children living in foster care, children’s homes, hospitals, young carers and gypsy and traveller children.

‘How are you doing?’ – Children’s Parliament (Scotland). This report, based on a survey carried out by the Children’s Parliament (and supported by Public Health Scotland and the Scottish Government) assessed social outcomes for 8-14 year-olds in Scotland, asking them about learning at home, family and peer relationships, health and wellbeing, and their general worries.

The survey was carefully designed in order to make it accessible for younger age groups. It is made up of 31 statements with a 5-point scale to respond – from strongly agree to strongly disagree. There are final questions where children can identify what they are worried about and what helps them feel good.

This report compares results from different stages of lockdown – combining April, May and June responses, and comparing these with a fourth survey conducted in September/early October. Response numbers ranged from 2000 to 4000.

“My Health, Our Future – At home” (healthwatch Suffolk). This study of approximately 3000 children aged 6-25 explores the mental health and emotional wellbeing of young people (as well as their parents/ guardians and education staff) during the coronavirus pandemic.

The wording of questions was varied to account for differences between age groups. The sample also included children with special needs or who identified as LGBTQ+, as well as encompassing a variety of ethnic backgrounds and mental health difficulties. The survey asked questions about mental health, social interaction and remote learning from the perspective of children themselves.

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