Ofsted ‘worried’ about early childhood development in education recovery report
Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman said it was clear Covid had left ‘lingering challenges’ in education and she was ‘particularly worried about the development of young children, who, if left unaddressed, could potentially cause problems for primary schools down the line. ”.
Today, Ofsted is releasing four briefing notes looking at how pupils across all age groups have recovered from lost learning and class time during the pandemic lockdowns.
One of these papers focuses on early childhood education contexts and found that some providers say children have “limited vocabulary” while “some babies have trouble responding to basic facial expressions” .
The report, based on inspections of 70 early years providers in January and February 2022, found that children had missed having conversations or hearing stories, with one provider noting that young children appear to have spent more time on the screens and began to use the accents and voices of the programs they watched.
A number of providers said wearing face masks also continues to have a negative impact on young children’s language and communication skills.
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“Children over the age of two will have been surrounded by adults wearing masks their entire lives and therefore may not have seen lip movements or mouth shapes as regularly,” the briefing states.
“Some providers reported that delays in children’s speech and language development caused them to not socialize with other children as easily as they previously expected,” he added.
Anne Longfield, the former Children’s Commissioner, told the Yorkshire Post that “the pandemic has had a devastating effect on children”.
“From missing the very foundations of very young children’s development to months of lost learning and taking a toll on the mental health and confidence of older children.
“It had an even more pronounced effect in the most infected areas – many of which are in the north. Without a long-term, large-scale recovery program, some children will never catch up.
“The suffering of children must not be erased from our memories as the pandemic progresses. They must be at the heart of the Covid Inquir/”
James Bowen, policy director of the head teachers’ union NAHT, said: ‘It’s no surprise that the pandemic has had a major impact on some children. We know that repeated confinements mean that most young children have reduced social interaction and it is perhaps unsurprising that this has affected their emotional development, social skills and speech and language abilities.
“We are delighted that the Ofsted report notes that schools are effectively helping children catch up on these lost skills.
“Schools are working incredibly hard to give students the extra support they need, but they can’t do it alone.
“The government must also invest in early childhood services for disadvantaged families, as well as life-saving services like speech therapy.
“So that children who need specialist support receive it as soon as possible.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “Our ambitious recovery plan continues to roll out across the country, with nearly £5billion invested in high-quality tutoring, world-class training for teachers and early childhood practitioners, additional funding for schools, and an extension of time in colleges by 40 hours per year.
“We have simplified the national tutoring program to reach as many pupils as possible, with funding going directly to schools from next year. The Nuffield Language Early Intervention Program is also used by the majority of schools to improve the language skills of children of reception age.