Covid lockdowns have delayed childrens’ readiness for primary school, new Ofsted report warns, as it finds pandemic has left babies and toddlers struggling to talk, share, make friends and use the toilet independently
- Lockdown restrictions affected development of young children, Ofsted reveal
- Children are speaking in different accents after watching films in lockdown
- They are mimicking the voices of characters in movies and TV programmes
- Ofsted said youngsters are now suffering delays in speech and language
School closures during lockdown have impacted the development of young children and left them struggling to ‘share’ and ‘interpret facial expressions’, it has emerged.
Covid restrictions have delayed children’s’ readiness for primary school because they were not able to socialise with others and spent less time in early education where they learn skills to ‘develop their independence’.
A report by Ofsted found that babies and toddlers struggled with toilet training, tying their shoelaces, taking their coat on and off, and hanging it up in a cloakroom.
Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief inspector of schools, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘We found a number of concerning things – still knock on from the pandemic and lockdown more generally.
‘We found delays in young people’s speech and language, we found some of the younger children were having difficulty interpreting facial expressions, which hinders them developing social interactions and social confidence.
‘We found children were less good at taking turns and sharing and self-care skills, all the things children need to learn to look after themselves and develop their independence – those also are somewhat delayed for many children. This obviously has a big knock on into their readiness for school.’
The report also revealed that young children are mimicking the voices of characters in movies and TV programmes due to the long hours spent on screens amid Covid lockdowns.
Inspectors found youngsters are suffering delays in speech and language as they have missed out on ‘stories, singing and having conversations’.
Amanda Spielman (pictured), Ofsted’s chief inspector of schools, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme : ‘We found a number of concerning things – still knock on from the pandemic and lockdown more generally’
School closures during lockdown have impacted the development of young children and left them struggling to ‘take turns and share’ and also ‘interpret facial expressions’, it has emerged (file image)
Fewer have learned to use the toilet independently, which means more children may not be ready for school by age four, while others find it hard to put on coats and blow their noses.
Meanwhile, some babies are struggling to ‘respond to basic facial expressions’. They are ‘particularly anxious and not used to seeing different faces’.
The findings will renew fears about the damage caused to children’s development following repeated lockdowns.
Ofsted has today published reports into the pandemic’s impact on different education settings, using evidence from 280 inspections and multiple focus groups.
The watchdog’s chief inspector also revealed that income played a vital role in children’s development and exercise as during the lockdowns, many young people wouldn’t have had access to a garden to exercise.
She added ‘Children have had less time in early education, less time interacting with others outside the family. Some children may not have had human interaction if they spent a lot of their time looking at screens.
‘We had reports from one or two providers commenting on children talking in the funny voices from cartoons that they’ve spent an enormous amount of time watching. It’s really about the time focused on children and really thinking about their language, social and physical development to help make sure they develop the way we really want them too.
Covid restrictions have delayed children’s’ readiness for primary school because they were not able to socialise with others and had less time in early education where they learn skills to ‘develop their independence’ (file image)
‘What’s important is that they get out, see the world around them. Of course, this has been impacted by income. The physical limitations of lockdown – if you didn’t have a garden those children were significantly more constrained with exercise compared to those who have a house with a big garden.’
Ms Spielman also said there has been ‘lots of really good work’ across early years, schools and further education this term, but ‘lingering challenges’ remain.
She said: ‘I’m particularly worried about younger children’s development, which, if left unaddressed, could potentially cause problems for primary schools down the line.’ In the early years, the watchdog analysed inspections of 70 childminders and nurseries between January and February.’
The briefing document says many providers reported continuing delays in babies’ and children’s speech and language progress.
The report says: ‘For example, some have noticed that children have limited vocabulary or lack the confidence to speak.
The Ofsted report found young children are speaking in different accents after watching lots of films and cartoons during the pandemic (file image)
‘Also, some babies have struggled to respond to basic facial expressions, which may be due to reduced contact and interaction with others during the pandemic.
‘Children have missed out on hearing stories, singing and having conversations.
‘One provider commented that children appear to have spent more time on screens and have started to speak in accents and voices that resemble the material they have watched.’ Staff felt that wearing face coverings continued to have a ‘negative impact’ on youngsters’ language skills.
‘Children turning two years old will have been surrounded by adults wearing masks for their whole lives and have therefore been unable to see lip movements or mouth shapes as regularly,’ the report says.
The early years document highlights a ‘regression in children’s independence and self-care skills’.
It says: ‘For example, more children needed help putting on their coat and blowing their nose.
‘An increasing number of providers were concerned that fewer children have learned to use the toilet independently. This means that more children may not be ready for school by age four.’
Helen Porter, Headteacher at Kings Forest Primary school, Kingswood in Bristol also told the BBC: ‘We have to remember it wasn’t just the lockdowns, it was the class closures and the disruption in terms of children having to isolate. The amount of time children have lost in school has been vast.
‘We’re social animals, we learn in a social way. For very very young children, not being able to explore and have those play experiences has had a huge impact. Many children in our nurseries didn’t know what I looked like without a face mask.’
Nursery workers and childminders also reported delays in babies’ physical development in terms of learning to crawl and walk.
Those starting in settings since the pandemic ‘have high levels of anxiety and are having to get used to seeing different people’.
Last July, it was revealed that US children were watching so much of the British cartoon, Peppa Pig, they were developing English accents.
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