Covid lockdowns have delayed children’s readiness for primary school, new Ofsted report warns

School closures during the lockdown have affected the development of young children, making it difficult for them to ‘share’ and ‘interpret’ facial expressions, it turns out.

Covid restrictions have delayed children’s readiness for primary school as they were unable to interact with others and spent less time in pre-school where they learn skills to ‘develop their independence’.

A report from Ofsted found that babies and toddlers had difficulty toilet training, tying their shoes, putting on and taking off their coats and hanging them in a wardrobe.

Amanda Spielman, Superintendent of Schools at Ofsted, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘We have found some disturbing things – still a consequence of the pandemic and the lockdown in general.

‘We found delays in young people’s speech and language, we found that some younger children had difficulty interpreting facial expressions, which hinders them in developing social interactions and social confidence.

‘We found that children were less good at taking turns and sharing and nurturing skills, all things that children need to learn to take care of themselves and develop their independence – these are also somewhat delayed for many children. This naturally has a major impact on their willingness to go to school.’

The report also revealed that young children are mimicking the voices of characters in movies and TV shows because of the long hours spent on screens during Covid lockdowns.

Inspectors found that young people have speech and language delays because they missed ‘stories, singing and having conversations’.

School closures during lockdown have impacted young children's development, making it difficult for them to 'take turns sharing' and also 'interpret facial expressions', it turns out (file image)

School closures during lockdown have impacted young children’s development, making it difficult for them to ‘take turns sharing’ and also ‘interpret facial expressions’, it turns out (file image)

Amanda Spielman (pictured), Superintendent of Schools at Ofsted, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'We found some worrying things - still knocking on the door of the pandemic and the lockdown in general'

Amanda Spielman (pictured), Ofsted’s Superintendent of Schools, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘We have found some disturbing things – still knocking on the door of the pandemic and the lockdown in general’

Fewer children have learned to go to the toilet on their own, meaning more children may not be ready for school by age four, while others find it difficult to put on a coat and blow their nose.

Meanwhile, some babies have trouble “responding to basic facial expressions.” They are ‘particularly anxious and not used to seeing different faces’.

The findings will renew fears of damage to children’s development after repeated lockdowns.

Ofsted today published reports on the impact of the pandemic on several educational institutions, using evidence from 280 inspections and multiple focus groups.

The watchdog’s chief inspector also revealed that income played a critical role in children’s development and exercise, as many young people would not have had access to a yard to exercise during the lockdowns.

She added: “Children have had less time in pre-school and less time socializing with others outside the family. Some kids may not have had human interaction if they spent a lot of time looking at screens.

“We had reports of one or two providers commenting on children talking in funny voices from cartoons that they have spent a huge amount of time on. It’s really about taking the time to focus on kids and really think about their language, social and physical development to make sure they develop the way we really want them to.

Covid restrictions have delayed children's readiness for primary school as they were unable to interact with others and had less time in early education where they learn skills to 'develop their independence' (file image)

Covid restrictions have delayed children’s readiness for primary school as they were unable to interact with others and had less time in early education where they learn skills to ‘develop their independence’ (file image)

‘It is important that they come out, see the world around them. Of course, this is influenced by income. The physical limitations of lockdown: if you didn’t have a garden, those children were significantly more restricted in movement than those who had a house with a large garden.’

Ms Spielman also said that “a lot of really good work” has been done this school year in early years, in schools and secondary education, but there are still “ongoing challenges”.

She said: ‘I am particularly concerned about the development of younger children, which, if left unchecked, could cause problems for primary schools in the future.’ In the early years, the watchdog analyzed inspections of 70 childminders and nurseries between January and February.’

The briefing paper states that many caregivers reported persistent delays in the speech and language development of infants and children.

The report says: ‘For example, some have noticed that children have limited vocabulary or lack the confidence to speak.

The Ofsted report found that young children speak with different accents after watching many movies and cartoons during the pandemic (file image)

The Ofsted report found that young children speak with different accents after watching many movies and cartoons during the pandemic (file image)

Also, some babies have trouble responding to basic facial expressions, which may be due to reduced contact and interaction with others during the pandemic.

“Children have missed hearing stories, singing and having conversations.

“One provider noted that children seem to have spent more time on screens and started talking in accents and voices similar to the material they’ve been watching.” The staff found that wearing face masks continued to have a ‘negative impact’ on young people’s language skills.

“Children as young as two have been surrounded their entire lives by adults who wear masks and therefore have not been able to see lip movements or mouth shapes as regularly,” the report says.

The document for young children points to a ‘regression in children’s independence and self-care skills’.

It says: ‘For example, more children needed help putting on their coats and blowing their noses.

‘More and more providers were concerned that fewer children had learned to go to the toilet on their own. This means that more children may not be ready to go to school by the age of four.”

Helen Porter, head teacher at Kings Forest Primary school, Kingswood in Bristol, also told the BBC: ‘We have to remember it wasn’t just the closures, it was the class closures and the disruption in terms of children having to isolate themselves. The amount of time children lose in school is enormous.

‘We are social animals, we learn in a social way. For very young children, it has not been able to discover and those play experiences have had a huge impact. Many children in our daycare centers did not know what I looked like without a face mask.’

Nurseries and childminders also reported delays in babies’ physical development in learning to crawl and walk.

Those who have started working in institutions since the pandemic “have a high level of anxiety and have to get used to seeing different people.”

Last July, it was revealed that American children were watching the British cartoon Peppa Pig so much that they were developing English accents.

This post Covid lockdowns have delayed children’s readiness for primary school, new Ofsted report warns

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