Covid-19 disruption risks widening attainment gap
By Rachel Lawler
Nearly half of early years providers believe that the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers has widened since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent survey conducted by the Alliance.
The Alliance asked more than 1,300 professionals working in early years settings across England about their experiences and 59% said that fewer children were now meeting the expected level of early attainment in the ‘prime areas’ of early learning and development since the start of the pandemic last year.
More than half of those surveyed said that they had observed negative changes in the learning and development of children when they returned to their setting after the first national lockdown.
42% of those who had seen negative changes said that these were more evident in children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
More support needed
More than eight in 10 respondents (82%) said that the government is not doing enough to support early years providers to tackle the impact of the pandemic on children under five, with many saying that they do not have adequate financial resources to invest in additional staff and offer targeted support.
One survey respondent commented: “Our children and families need support now. If we do not invest this time and support now, we will see the consequences as these children continue their educational journey.”
Lack of resources
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, said: “The early years workforce is deeply committed to supporting children and families, and has done a fantastic job throughout the pandemic continuing to deliver care and education at great personal risk and with almost no additional support.
“Practitioners responding to the survey said they know exactly what children at their settings most need to recover lost skills and confidence, and that the only thing stopping them from taking action is a lack of resources. It is therefore vital that nurseries, pre-schools 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 improve children’s personal, social and emotional development alongside their physical development, which many respondents noted have suffered as a result of being cut off from their friends and opportunities to play and explore.
“Given the proven link between investment in early years and better educational and social outcomes, especially for the most disadvantaged children, a failure to invest now would be unforgivable.”