June 18, 2024


International Student Club UK

UK government report reveals COVID disruption has produced developmental delays in younger children


A report by the UK government’s education inspectorate Ofsted describes a worrying regression in the development of younger children during the past two years.

This developmental delay is not surprising, considering the disruption caused to education by the Johnson government’s failure to respond to the pandemic scientifically with a zero-COVID strategy. Its “let it rip” policy has instead led to the development of new, more transmissible variants of SARS-CoV 2, and wave upon wave of infections, causing chaos in schools with COVID-related staff shortages and pupil absences.

Primary school pupils return to a school in Bournemouth, England on Monday September 6, 2021 (WSWS Media)

The disruption is robbing children, particularly those who attend state schools and pre-school settings, of their basic right to learn in a safe environment.

Ofsted’s report, “Education recovery in early years providers: spring 2022”, is based on interviews with 70 early years providers, including 38 childminders and 32 nurseries, as well as discussions with early years inspectors, between January 17 and February 4, 2022. The authors state the report is neither “conclusive” nor “representative” as it was based on a small sample, but it nevertheless raises serious concerns.

Those interviewed reported, “babies have struggled to respond to basic facial expressions,” due to reduced contact time with adults. Some noticed delays in physical development and motor skills, especially if children lived in homes without a garden for outside play. Delays in crawling and walking were observed, as well as obesity.

“[D]elays in speech and language progress” were also noted. Children’s vocabulary was more limited than would be expected, and this adversely affected socialising. Some providers noticed toddlers and pre-school children needed extra support with sharing and taking turns. “Some children had regressed in independence and in self-care skills,” such as putting on their own coat, going to the toilet or blowing their nose.

More children were referred for speech therapy. Ofsted said, “… parents who could do so had paid for private speech and language therapists… Those who could not afford this have faced longer waiting times, of up to 9 months in some local authorities.”

Prevalence of the virus among staff or child minders disrupted provision, compounding insecurity felt by children, many of whom may have tragically lost a caregiver or grandparent.


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