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Ofsted Early years report – continued impact from pandemic

4th April 2022

Today, the Government published the second set of four reports in a series looking at the pandemic’s continued impact on education recovery and how schools, prisons, early years providers and further education and skills providers are responding to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

TheEducation recovery in early years providers: spring 2022 report draws on inspection evidence gathered in the spring 2022 term and discussions with early years inspectors about the ongoing implications of the pandemic on children.

The pandemic has continued to affect young children’s communication and language development, with many providers noticing delays in speech and language. Others said babies have struggled to respond to basic facial expressions, which may be due to reduced social interaction during the pandemic.

The negative impact on children’s personal, social and emotional development has also continued, with many lacking confidence in group activities.

Children’s social and friendship-building skills have been affected. Some providers reported that toddlers and pre-schoolers needed more support with sharing and turn-taking. To address this, staff were providing as many opportunities as possible for children to mix with others and build confidence in social situations.

There continues to be an impact on children’s physical development, including delays in babies learning to crawl and walk. Some providers reported that children had regressed in their independence and self-care skills. As a result, several have increased the amount of time that children spend on physical activities, to develop gross motor skills.

An increasing number of providers were concerned that, compared with before the pandemic, fewer children have learned to use the toilet independently. This means that more children may not be ready for school by age 4. Providers were also concerned about obesity and dental health, so have focused on providing well-balanced meals and increased time for physical activity.

Alison Morton, iHV Executive Director said:

“Today’s report lays bare the far-reaching and largely overlooked impacts of the pandemic on babies, young children and their families. It is vital that this is taken seriously by policy makers with a COVID recovery plan and investment to address growing levels of need and vulnerability.

“We have a longstanding problem in this country with invisible vulnerable children who are not getting the support that they need, and the pandemic has made this situation worse. Therefore, it is vital that any enhanced package of support for ‘Covid recovery’ also includes investment in the universal safety net for our youngest citizens provided by the health visiting service.

“Babies, young children and families need joined up support – to achieve this we need more health visitors who are uniquely placed to reach all families, ideally preventing problems happening in the first place, but also who have a crucial role in identifying babies and young children with developmental delay and unrecognised disabilities that need early intervention and targeted support to achieve their full potential. I hope that this report will provide further impetus for much needed investment to turn the Best Start for Life Vision into a reality.”

Find details of the series of Ofsted reports here: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/ofsted-education-recovery-series