Three out of five young workers say that fewer children have reached the level of learning and development expected since the beginning of Covid.
Nearly half of staff working with preschoolers believe the education gap between poorer children under five and their more affluent peers has widened during the pandemic, according to a study by the Early Years Alliance (EYA).
A survey of more than 1,300 workers in day care centers, kindergartens and childminders in England found that 59% say that fewer children from all backgrounds are reaching the expected level in key areas of learning and development since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. .
Nearly half of staff working with pre-schoolers believe that the education gap between poorer children under five and their affluent peers has widened during the pandemic
More than half (54%) said they observed negative changes in children’s learning and development when they returned after the initial lockdown.
One respondent said that young people had forgotten how to put on their own shoes, while another said that some preschoolers now look at toys ‘blankly’ and do not know how to use their imaginations and play.
Of those who saw negative changes, 42% said they were more evident in children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
One respondent said that young people are now ‘clingy, upset and afraid of strangers’ after lockdown periods.
They added, ‘They have lost the ability to play independently. They take a long time to settle with their parents.
More than half (54%) said they observed negative changes in children’s learning and development when they returned after the initial lockdown
Some have returned with very good reading and math skills, but are nowhere near where they should be with personal, social and emotional development, or physical and self-care skills.
“They lack gross motor skills because they have been indoors a lot, and some who were able to put on their own shoes before locking have forgotten how.”
Another respondent said: ‘They look blankly at toys and individual parts, with no idea how to explore and use their imaginations.
‘They often ask for the TV or to play with my phone and are confused when I say’ no ‘.
“I’m concerned about what has done to their development this year and how long it will take to make up for lost learning.”
One respondent said: “The only thing that keeps us from delivering all the interventions we would like is a lack of funding.
‘We work with a minimum of staff to meet legal requirements because we cannot afford to pay extra staff.
“More staff would allow for more and more effective interventions that would have a tremendous impact on the learning and development of all our children, but especially those who are currently underperforming.”
More than four in five (82%) respondents said the government is not doing enough to support young caregivers addressing the impact of the pandemic on children under the age of five. staff to provide targeted support.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already made £ 1.7 billion in catch-up funding available in England to help children who have suffered from school interruptions due to Covid-19.
Only £ 10 million of this package will be used to support early language development in pre-reception settings, while a further £ 8 million will be available for schools for child-minding classes.
EYA chief executive Neil Leitch said: “ Practitioners who responded to the survey said they know exactly what children need most in their institutions to restore lost skills and confidence, and that the only thing that keeps them from taking action is a lack of resources.
‘That’s why it’s vital that day care centers, playgroups and childminders are given dedicated financial support for recovery and the autonomy to use it as they see fit.
Proper funding would enable the targeted interventions needed to enhance children’s personal, social and emotional development alongside their physical development, which many respondents say has suffered as a result of their loss of access to their friends and because they have no opportunity to play and explore.
“Given the proven link between early investment and better educational and social outcomes, especially for the most disadvantaged children, it would be inexcusable not to invest now.”
On Friday, the Department for Education (DfE) encouraged all state schools in England with a host class to apply for resources and training as part of the £ 8 million catch-up program for the early years.
It is hoped that the scheme will improve outcomes in the early language, communication and speech skills of child-minding children.
Minister of Children and Families Vicky Ford said: “ We know that the early years of a child’s life can be the most formative, which is why this government makes it a priority to ensure that all children have the best start in life. to have.
Speaking and communicating with confidence sets a child up for success in life, so it is vital that we support children to grow in confidence with these skills – especially those for whom English is not their native language or who are more likely to learn English during the pandemic. have been more isolated than their age group. ‘