Two-year-old development worsened, new Government figures reveal

Kathy Oxtoby
Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Government's latest toddler development figures show a drop in expected development levels.

The proportion of toddlers at the expected level of development has dropped, according to new Government’s statistics.

The Government's latest annual data on child development outcomes at two to two-and-a-half cover from 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023. The figures, released yesterday (7 November) show a drop in communication, gross motor, fine motor, problem solving and personal-social skills in the last year.

The data was collected through an interim reporting system set up to collect health visiting activity data at a local authority resident level. 

‘Government support was too little too late’ 

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) said: ‘Our members tell us that more and more children attend nursery with additional needs and developmental delay, especially with communication and social skills. We were worried about the impact lockdowns and restrictions would have on children who did not have normal interactions with family members and peers and this data has born that out. 

‘Sadly, government support was too little too late to help this particular cohort of children. Access to high quality early education and care makes a difference that lasts a lifetime. Nursery practitioners work very hard to support these children’s needs whatever age they come into settings.

‘We know the cost of living has also hit families hard and children miss out as a result. This is why it’s crucial that we invest in their first five years.’

Findings ‘concerning but sadly not at all surprising’

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said the findings were ‘concerning but sadly not at all surprising’.

‘Over recent years, the early years has faced an array of challenges which have created a perfect storm for providers. Not only is the impact of the pandemic still being felt when it comes to children's development, but the sector is facing its worst staffing crisis in decades. As a result, many settings have been left with no choice but to rely on bank and agency staff to fill staffing gaps, making it all the more difficult to deliver consistently high-quality early education and care. 

He said that with so many debates and discussions on the need for more “affordable childcare”, the findings ‘serve as a timely reminder of the importance of quality early education – something that recent changes to ratios and staff qualification requirements risk completely undermining’. 

‘Let's be clear: if the Government is serious about supporting children’s development, quality must be the central focus of every early years policy. Anything less, and these worrying trends will only continue.’

The findings can be accessed here 


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