Experts are worried about the little known side effect of lockdown that they say will last for years and years. Key stages of development of children who are in their early years as we weather the pandemic are falling behind and many areas of concern have been highlighted by research into the issue.
The delays in communication and social skills will affect learning in the future, even as the world starts to open again in the next few years. Sarah Bonetti, head of early years development at the Education Policy Institute, has spoken to Sky News and pointed out that social and emotional development, interaction with their peers, behaviour, self-regulation, and anxiety are all falling foul of the unprecedented amount of time children have been without normal socialisation.
“Being less able to pay attention” is another issue, she says, with language and communication delays also now more common among preschool children.
“It’s not just the amount of words, it’s also letter recognition, so all the precursors to literacy,” she said. “Being with your parents is not the same as being with your peers – and a lot of them have missed out on peer interaction and just being out in the world. Above all, for the most disadvantaged children, we know the gap is increasing.”
“We will see consequences in one form or another that will last for years and will impact on their trajectory, also on learning in the future,” she has warned, stating a long term strategy is needed to make up for the issues experienced now.
This side effect of lockdown in children starting their schooling now is being seen by all staff, and delayed development in reception-age children is now common. Stephanie Ropic, a speech and language therapist, works in several inner-city primary schools in Birmingham. She spoke to Sky News and said in the schools she works in, she says 80% of children starting reception do not have age-appropriate language skills. Before COVID, she estimates it would have been around 40%.
“In reception in the schools where I’m working, it is most of the children,” she says. “It wasn’t like that pre-pandemic.”
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