Covid-19 series: briefing on early years, October 2020

Ofsted has published its second report in a series highlighting the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on children.

The report stated that many children have left early years settings since the first national restrictions and have not returned. Almost all providers said that the pandemic had significantly impacted the learning and development of children who had left and subsequently returned.

The lack of socialising during the lockdown has had an impact on children’s confidence and social development, This has been noticed and raised by many providers once children return to the settings.

This report answers four broad questions based on evidence from the research interviews:

  • What is the current state of early years provision?
  • How have children been affected by the first national lockdown?
  • How are early years providers planning to maintain standards in education and care through the pandemic?
  • How financially sustainable is the early years sector?

The impact on children’s learning and development

Almost all providers stated that the first lockdown had a significant impact on children’s learning and development. Providers identified three groups of children when talking about this impact:

  • Those who continued to attend the setting.
  • Those at home who were well supported by parents who were able to spend time with them.
  • Those at home with parents who were not able to spend time with them.

One in five providers thought that all their children had been impacted in a similar way. However, most were more concerned about the learning and development of the following groups of children:

  • Children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
  • Those who speak English as an additional language.
  • Children living in poverty.
  • Those whose parents were not engaging previously.

Children from disadvantaged backgrounds did not have the same access to toys and tools that are integral to early years learning and play.

Purnima Tanuku OBE, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) said: ‘This detailed report demonstrates just how essential childcare and early education is for children’s development, especially during what has clearly been a traumatic time for children and families.

‘It’s very commendable that childcare providers have been working extremely hard to support children particularly with their personal, social and emotional development as well as increasing their physical activities outdoors to build up their strength and fitness. It’s really positive to see the impact that nurseries are having on children’s learning which is highlighted clearly in this report.

‘Most nurseries were open during the first lockdown providing high quality emergency care and those who were closed were still reaching out to children to support them in their family homes virtually through activities.

‘But nurseries continue to face huge financial and staffing challenges and must be supported in order to offer this all-important high quality care and education. Every pound spend in early years saves money in their later education so this is where resources must be focused.

‘NDNA has been calling for urgent recovery and transitional funding for childcare providers to support them through this crisis and enable them to engage with children to limit the impact this pandemic has on their young lives. That’s why we’re asking the Chancellor to include a Plan for Childcare in his Plan for Jobs within the Comprehensive Spending Review.’

Commenting, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said: ‘At a time when there is so much focus on access to ‘childcare’ element of early years provision, this report is a timely reminder of the vital early education that nurseries, pre-schools and childminders are delivering every day, and the tangible impact that losing access to this education can have on young children.

‘We know that many providers who were forced to close during lockdown worked incredibly hard to stay in touch with and support families throughout that period, and continue to show great commitment to supporting children’s wellbeing and development as they settle back into their nursery or childminding environment.

‘It is vital, however, that the early years is given adequate support to do this. As such, it is incredibly disappointing that the government has still failed to extend the ‘catch-up’ funding given to schools to support children who have been negatively impacted as a result of missing education during lockdown to the early years sector.

‘Providers have done an incredible job of supporting children in their care throughout this pandemic, but they should not be left to tackle this challenge alone. It’s time the government remembered that early years provision is not just about getting parents back to work – it’s about delivering high-quality learning and development opportunities at the most critical time of a child’s life – and started providing the support that the sector needs to continue doing just that.’



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