School and nursery closures have caused some children to regress, says Ofsted

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Lockdown has taken its toll on young children, resulting in some no longer being able to use the potty or a knife and fork, according to a new report from Ofsted.

Time out of school has resulted in some children going backwards although 'lost learning is hard to assess'.
Time out of school has resulted in some children going backwards although 'lost learning is hard to assess'.

Ofsted has today published its second report in a series looking at the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic across the sectors it inspects and regulates, from early years and children’s social care, through to post-16 education.

The report finds that some children, of all ages and backgrounds, have lost some basic skills and learning as a result of school closures and restrictions on movement.

Ofsted’s research was based on visits to 900 schools and early years providers this autumn – and it found a very divided experience.

Findings include:

  • Some young children, who were previously potty-trained, have lapsed back into nappies, particularly those whose parents were unable to work flexibly
  • Older children have lost stamina in their reading and writing, some have lost physical fitness, others show signs of mental distress, including an increase in eating disorders and self-harm
  • Concerns remain about children who were out of sight during school closures, with falling referrals to social care teams raising fears that domestic neglect, exploitation or abuse is going undetected

Ofsted reports that the ‘hardest-hit’ group of young children have suffered from time out of school, going backwards on words and numbers and with ‘regression back into nappies among potty-trained children’ or losing ‘basic skills’ such as using a knife and fork.

The majority of children in the middle ‘have slipped back in their learning to varying degrees since schools were closed to most children and movement restricted" and the report says: "Lost learning is unarguable, but it is hard to assess.’

There are also children who found the lockdown a positive experience – these children, from supportive but not necessarily well off backgrounds, might have benefited from a greater sense of togetherness with parents and ‘quality time’ as a family

But this did not divide along the lines of advantage and deprivation, but instead factors such as whether parents were able to spend time with children and families having what she described as ‘good support structures’.

There are also reports of a loss of physical fitness, while other pupils are showing 'signs of mental distress', with concerns over eating disorders and self-harm.

There are concerns about pupils who have so far not returned to school – and in a third of schools there has been an 'increase in children being removed from school to be educated at home'.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance said the report is a timely reminder of the vital early education that nurseries, pre-schools and childminders are delivering every day, and the – ‘tangible impact that losing access to this education can have on young children.' 

He said: ‘We know that many providers who were forced to close during lockdown worked incredibly hard to stay in touch with and support families throughout that period, and continue to show great commitment to supporting children’s well-being and development as they settle back into their nursery or childminding environment.’ 

‘It is vital, however, that the early years is given adequate support to do this. As such, it is incredibly disappointing that the government has still failed to extend the 'catch-up' funding given to schools to support children who have been negatively impacted as a result of missing education during lockdown to the early years sector. 

‘Providers have done an incredible job of supporting children in their care throughout this pandemic, but they should not be left to tackle this challenge alone. It’s time the government remembered that early years provision is not just about getting parents back to work - it’s about delivering high-quality learning and development opportunities at the most critical time of a child’s life - and started providing the support that the sector needs to continue doing just that.’


Read the report here

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