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Ofsted report shows ongoing impact of pandemic

By Rachel Lawlerchild learning letters early education

Children’s development in the early years continues to be affected by the pandemic, according to the latest briefing from Ofsted.

In the third report of its kind, based on evidence gathered during 29 inspections this summer and discussions with 21 early years inspectors, Ofsted highlighted several areas of concern including:

  • language and communication
  • social and emotional development
  • physical development

Moving up to school
Ofsted also noted that “fewer children are ready for the move up to Reception than would have been expected before the pandemic”. It also said that elsewhere younger children had missed learning opportunities where providers were focused on getting the oldest children ready for school.

Two-year-old places
The report also flagged concerns about lower take-up of the two-year-old funded offer and cited parental anxiety and a lack of awareness as possible reasons for this.

Ongoing restrictions
A majority of providers were still working with some Covid-19 restrictions, such as limiting parent and carer access to setting buildings, despite the legal restrictions being lifted.

Providers said that this was in attempt to reduce the risk of staff illness and flagged a lack of guidance and direction from the government. The report says: “They are worried about getting it wrong and are so nervous about easing restrictions.”

Recruitment issues
The report also highlighted concerns around staffing, with “most providers” reporting difficulty in recruiting and retaining qualified staff.

The report says: "The challenges in recruiting and retaining staff are having a negative impact on how a provider can plan, both for children’s learning opportunities and financially."

Impact of underfunding
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented: “The report shows the disastrous impact that years of underfunding has had on the sector and lays bare significant recruitment and retention challenges as well as an array of additional challenges, such as training, that the sector is facing. 

“What’s more, the report concerningly shows that less eligible two-year-olds are taking up funded places. We know that children from disadvantaged backgrounds benefit the most from high quality early years provision and educators have been working incredibly hard to ensure that every child can get access to early education, but, as the report shows, stretched setting budgets often makes this an impossible task.

“There’s no doubt that all these issues can be solved if the government finally addresses the need to significantly increase funding to enable educators to offer more training, opportunities and, crucially, a fair wage to encourage staff to both join and remain in the sector.

“Once again, Ofsted’s update on the early years sector highlights how vital early years educators have been in helping children develop and catch-up on key education and social skills during the pandemic. It’s time the government recognised this fact and gave the sector the respect, appreciation and, most importantly, investment that it needs." 

Find out more
Read the report in full here