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The ‘Shaping Us’ campaign – a welcome spotlight on the early years

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 3 February 2023

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, gestures as she speaks to two researchers during a 2021 visit to UCL.

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Professor Pasco Fearon, and Professor Alissa Goodman, during a 2021 visit to UCL. Credit: Parsons Media for UCL.

Alissa Goodman

It was exciting to be invited earlier this week to the launch of Shaping Us, the new Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood campaign to raise awareness of how important the early years are for shaping the adults we become.

At the launch, the Princess of Wales showed her obvious passion for and commitment to improving the lives of all children, from their earliest stages of life. Her serious personal interest in the deep scientific underpinnings for why the early years matter is also very striking. (more…)

Maximizing the use and impact of the UK’s longitudinal research data

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 24 January 2023

Connections and networks between moving people in a busy train station.

Credit: alice_photo via Adobe Stock.

Rob Davies.

As CLOSER marks its 10-year anniversary, we’re looking back over the evolution of the home of longitudinal research in the UK.

The studies

The UK funds a number of internationally renowned longitudinal population studies (LPS). Each tracks a large sample of individuals over a number of years. In some cases they follow cohorts of around 17,000 born in the same year, from cradle to grave. In others, they follow a cohort for a shorter period, and the sample may be defined by age and/or, for instance, where these individuals live or work. The data this generates have been invaluable for analysing social as well as biomedical research questions and informing policy. The primary funders are the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Medical Research Council (MRC).

Each of the studies is powerful in itself, but the LPS community were more ambitious still, looking to amplify the insights they could provide by combining the data they generate. (more…)

IOE at 120: Britain’s birth cohort studies find their home, 1992-2002

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 26 October 2022

A selection of birthday cards sent to members of the 1958 and 1970 British birth cohort studies in the 1990s.

A selection of birthday cards sent to members of the 1958 and 1970 British birth cohort studies in the 1990s.

This blog is the 10th in a series of 12 exploring each decade in IOE’s history in the context of the education and society of the times. Find out more about our 120th anniversary celebrations on our website, and follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn to keep up with everything that’s happening. 

Meghan Rainsberry.

The 1990s was a decade in history when two great pillars of British social science came together – IOE, and the British birth cohort studies.

Following generations of Britons from cradle to grave, birth cohort studies have been a unique feature of medical and social science in Britain since the original birth cohort study was established in 1946. It was a first for Britain, and the world.

Today, the successors of the 1946 cohort are all housed together at the IOE’s Centre for Longitudinal Studies: the 1958 National Child Development Study, the 1970 British Cohort Study and the Millennium Cohort Study. The original 1946 cohort is not far away, just a few doors down at the MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL.

You’ll often hear the studies referred to as the ‘jewels in the crown’ of British social science. But if you wind the clock back to the 1980s, they were (more…)

The disadvantage gap: children of austerity or children of adversity?

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 6 September 2022

chezbeate / Pixabay

Neil Kaye.

Last month, hundreds of thousands of young people nervously opened their GCSE results – the first time in the post-pandemic world that such exams had been sat by a full cohort of Year 11 students. Whilst the headlines focused on the apparent fall in average grades from those of the previous two years, the results also highlight a seemingly-inevitable outcome of our present education system: the persistence of a ‘disadvantage’ attainment gap.

A recent IFS report concluded that, “despite decades of policy attention, there has been virtually no change in the ‘disadvantage gap’ in GCSE attainment over the past 20 years”. Whilst some improvement has been noted, modelling by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) from before the pandemic observed that “at the current rate of progress, it would take over 500 years for this gap to close completely at the end of secondary school” (Lupton & Hayes, 2021).

So, is this gap in attainment inevitable? Is it ‘baked’ into the system? Are the policies of successive governments doomed to failure, or have they (more…)

Does educational disadvantage persist among children of care leavers?

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 6 September 2022

Sam Parsons, Emla Fitzsimons and Ingrid Schoon.

There has been persistent research evidence that care-leavers tend to have lower educational outcomes compared to their peers. But there is little knowledge about the educational experiences of their children.

Our research, presented today at the British Educational Research Association annual conference in Liverpool, finds evidence of intergenerational transmission of educational disadvantage already in the very early years (age 3 and 5) through to GCSE attainment at age 16. However, once inequalities in family socio-economic background or area deprivation and housing are controlled for, children of care-leaver mothers perform just (more…)

Only children in the UK are doing just fine

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 12 July 2022

Jenny Chanfreau and Alice Goisis. 

One-child families are becoming more common in many countries, including the UK. According to the Office for National Statistics, 18% of women born in the early 1970s had one child only, up from 12% among women born a decade earlier in the early 1960s and 14% among women born about a generation earlier, around 1945. Yet many outdated preconceptions and stereotypes persist about what only children are like and how their lives turn out. Our project, using data from four British birth cohorts born in 1946, 1958, 1970 and 2000-2002, provided a comprehensive analysis of the characteristics of only children born in different decades in the UK and how they are doing in childhood and adulthood. Overall, the picture that emerges around only children in the UK is reassuring.

For any research on only children, we first need to be clear about who is an only child. This might appear straight-forward at first glance, as the dictionary definitions of ‘Only child’ suggest: a child who has no sisters or brothers (Cambridge); a person who has no siblings (Collins); or a person who never had a brother or sister (Merriam-Webster). Yet closer reflection reveals (more…)

Who is included, who is excluded and what can we do to promote inclusion for all children?

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 10 June 2021

Claire Cameron, Jo Van Herwegen, Mark Mon-Williams, Aase Villadsen.

“Covid 19 constitutes the greatest crisis that high-income countries have seen in many generations,” says UNICEF in its recent analysis. And children “are among those at greatest risk of seeing their living standards fall and their personal well-being decline”.

This, in turn, threatens to broaden the group of children at risk of exclusion – not just for misbehaviour, but because they have needs that are not being met. The danger is that, in the pandemic’s aftermath, we focus on ‘catch up’ learning for the relatively advantaged, and neglect the long-term health, wellbeing, and competency benefits of inclusive education for all students – especially those who are poor and ‘near poor’.

Now is the time to think how we can organise structures, services, and systems in every school so that all (more…)

Cutting through the noise: mobilising data and generating impact during a global pandemic

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 8 June 2021

A father, wearing a face mask, hugs his young daughterRob Davies.

In May 2020, I highlighted the need to harness the power of longitudinal population studies to help understand the immediate and long-term impacts of the pandemic on individuals, families and communities and called for the creation of a new national birth cohort study to ensure that valuable data from a generation born during a global pandemic is not lost.

As the UK moves into a new phase of its COVID-19 response I explore what happened over the past year and how our work ensured that longitudinal data and research will remain at the forefront of the country’s response (more…)

Inequalities in education and society: the home, the school and the power of reading

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 22 August 2019

This blog is based on Professor Alice Sullivan’s inaugural professorial lecture, presented at the UCL Institute of Education on 18 June 2019

Much of my work concerns the way that advantage and disadvantage are passed down from one generation to the next. So, for example, why do middle class kids do better in education than working class kids? And, why is there a link between social class origins in childhood and socioeconomic destinations in adulthood?

Sociologists sometimes call this relationship the OED triangle, where O stands for socioeconomic origins, E stands for Education and D stands for destinations in adult life. Social reproduction occurs when there is a close relationship between origins and destinations, and social mobility when that relationship is broken by a move up or down the social ladder.

During the course of my career I’ve worked on a set of interrelated questions regarding educational and social inequalities, and these are the questions I will address here:

(more…)

How well-off and healthy were my parents when I was little? Am I a hard-working high flier, or an advantaged one?

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 12 August 2019

Gabriella Melis and Ingrid Schoon.

Our research looked at how inequalities amongst families in the 1970s in England have been passed on onto their offspring when they were adults themselves. We call the parent’s generation G1, and the offspring generation, born in 1970, G2.

Drawing on data from the British Cohort Study 1970 (BCS70), we considered several measures of socio-economic and health-related risk factors for both the parents (G1) and their children (G2) ­at age 42. The data covered around 11,000 individuals and their families over a 42-year timespan, which makes our sample a very robust one for the study of transmission of inequality from one generation to the next.

We found that individuals who grew up in more disadvantaged families are significantly more likely to end up in disadvantaged socio-economic and health conditions by age 42 when compared to those from relatively more privileged families. This is true, in particular, for those from families where the parents were physically ill or depressed. There is however also a considerable degree of social mobility, for some (more…)