'Nearly all children' have fallen behind in their education because of Covid

7 December 2021, 16:32

Nearly all children in England have fallen behind in their education during the pandemic
Nearly all children in England have fallen behind in their education during the pandemic. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

A damning Ofsted report has revealed almost ever child in England has fallen behind in their education as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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The education watchdog said the loss of education, disrupted routine, and lack of activities led some children to develop physical and mental health problems with loneliness, boredom and misery becoming an "endemic" among the young.

Now Ofsted is calling on all parts of education and care systems to work together to enable children "to fulfil their potential" and "regain a sense of normality" in their lives.

Chief inspector Amanda Spielman warned that many of the youngest children's progress and development "faltered" amid the pandemic, with some regressing in basic language and social skills.

The bleak report also detailed how "vulnerable children" disappeared from teachers’ line of sight, resulting in significantly lower levels of referrals to social care.

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Ofsted say some children in care felt less safe due to lockdown restrictions and broken relationships with staff whilst long-standing pressures on care placements grew.

The report also detailed how children became involved in criminal activity, including gang violence, and were at risk of child sexual exploitation as a result of school closures.

In the worst cases, increased levels of anxiety led children to self-harm.

Ms Spielman said for children to "really regain a sense of normality in their lives" schools should not solely focus on bridging gaps in academic learning.

Instead she suggested: "Schools must offer children a rounded experience, including a rich curriculum, sport and physical activity, and extra-curricular opportunities that broaden their horizons."

Ofsted found that, despite the best efforts of many thousands of parents, teachers, social workers and carers, the challenges of the pandemic were so great that "nearly all children fell behind in their education."

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Speaking on Monday, Ms Spielman said: "The lower achievers are the ones who've learned least through periods of remote learning and closed schools.

"So it's very important that we stay very clearly focused on the ones who will need help and who won't simply recover through schools doing what they always do so well."

"The education and social care sectors have been under tremendous strain since the pandemic began, and their staff have worked tirelessly in children's interests.

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"Their efforts deserve the highest praise. But the challenges of Covid-19 were so great that nearly every child has felt the impact of the resulting restrictions.

"Many young children's progress and development faltered."

She added: "In order to protect older generations, we asked the youngest generation to put their lives and education on hold. As we look forward to the year ahead, we must strive to redress the balance."

Her comments come after the latest Department for Education (DfE) figures show that the number of children and staff off school for Covid-related reasons in England has risen in recent weeks.

But education unions have warned that disruption to schooling is likely to worsen following the emergence of the newly-identified Omicron coronavirus variant.

A Scottish primary school has already been forced to close for a week after a suspected outbreak of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.