Not surprising, really.
According to a new report by the UK’s Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsed), young children’s development, following the pandemic, has been “particularly worrying.”
The report was based on inspections of 70 early years providers in England in January and February of this year, and according to chief inspector of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman, there are many “lingering challenges”.
Worryingly, the report stated that most nurseries had noticed that babies had a much more limited vocabulary, and also struggled to understand facial expressions on a scale not seen before the pandemic.
Speaking to the BBC, Spielman also reveals that the report unveiled a variety of other challenges for young children, including some struggling with potty training.
“We are seeing difficulties with social interaction and social confidence – children just behind where you would normally expect them to be. And also in physical development – crawling, walking and perhaps related to that also greater obesity.”
The report said a few early years care providers suggested the use of face masks had also had a negative impact on young children’s language and communication skills.
“Children turning two years old will have been surrounded by adults wearing masks for their whole lives and have therefore been unable to see lip movements or mouth shapes as regularly,” the Ofsted briefing said.
Heartbreakingly, one nursery even said children were talking in voices of cartoons they spent so much time watching.
And just like here in Ireland, UK parents are also struggling because there are huge delays in access to both speech and language therapies, as well as mental health services.
‘A huge impact’
Julie Robinson, nursery owner of Eagley School House Nurseries in Bolton, told BBC Breakfast she found a difference between children who had been in nursery throughout the pandemic and those who were at home.
“All they’ve seen is parents and a house, not interacting in local parks, seeing their friends, and going to parties,” she said.
“So it’s taken a long time to get these children, especially young babies and toddlers settled into nursery.”
Helen Porter, headteacher at Kings’ Forest Primary School in Bristol, also spoke to the BBC and revealed:
“For very young children, not being able to have those play experiences and to explore the world around them has had a huge impact. It absolutely resonated with me, that the children in our nursery didn’t know what I looked like without a facemask for a long time and the impact that had on being able to read facial expressions and build those relationships.”