Experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic had a strong bearing on young people’s future plans. Of all those who had made education plans, almost two-thirds (64%) reported that their educational plans had changed (at least to some extent) because of the pandemic. Career plans were only slightly less likely to have been affected: three in five (60%) of those who had made plans had changed them as a result. Females, young people from disadvantaged family backgrounds, and those attending state comprehensive schools were more likely than their counterparts to report that they had changed their education and career plans due to the pandemic.
Young people who reported having had ‘long COVID’ or ill health, who were asked to shield or who experienced economic hardships were more likely to have changed their future plans. Those who described themselves as having suffered from ‘long COVID’ were the most likely to have had their career plans affected, with 70% of this group having changed their career plans at least to some extent, compared with 56% of those who had not had the virus at all.
Disadvantaged students were less likely to receive information, advice and guidance (IAG) during the pandemic. Those who attended independent schools were significantly more likely to have accessed formal IAG activities: 86% of this group accessed at least one type of IAG activity while at school, compared to just under seven in ten (69%) across state comprehensive schools as a whole, and 67% at the schools with the highest levels of free school meal (FSM) eligibility.
This cohort of young people continues to have large inequalities in their educational aspirations. Disadvantaged students were less likely to be planning to apply for university, had less confidence about getting into university, and were more likely to plan to do a vocational qualification. While 98% of participants who were privately educated and 92% of those who attended state grammar schools reported that they were likely to apply for university, only 68% of those attending state comprehensive schools say they plan to do so.