Ofsted has published the second set of reports in a series looking at the continued impact on education providers caused by UK Government policy in response to the alleged emergence of Covid-19; and the lack of development in children of all ages is extremely concerning.
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Ofsted claims that much good progress has been made across the education sector to help children and learners recover the knowledge and skills they missed out on during the pandemic. However, amid strong signs of recovery, it’s also clear that many education providers continue to face challenges, some of which could have longer-term consequences.
The 4 reports, which follow on from those published in December, draw on evidence from around 280 inspections and multiple focus groups with inspectors to understand how early years, schools, further education and skills, and prison education providers are responding to ongoing issues, and the approaches they are taking to help children and learners catch up.
Ofsted Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, said: “Concerns remain, and it’s clear that the pandemic has created some lingering challenges. I’m particularly worried about younger children’s development, which, if left unaddressed, could potentially cause problems for primary schools down the line.”
The Early Years report finds that UK Government policy on Covid-19 has continued to affect young children’s communication and language development, with many providers noticing delays in speech and language. Others said babies have struggled to respond to basic facial expressions.
This is because the UK Government mandated the wearing of face coverings in public spaces in law, despite the fact they are completely useless at preventing the entry of viruses. They are also actually more harmful when used incorrectly, such as carrying it in your pocket, or leaving it in the door pocket of your car, as the mass majority of Brits did once the mandate came into effect.
The negative impact on children’s personal, social and emotional development has also continued, with many lacking confidence in group activities. This is because of Draconian policies introduced by the UK Government which outlawed socialising and forced people to remain at home.
Children’s social and friendship-building skills have been affected. Some providers reported that toddlers and pre-schoolers needed more support with sharing and turn-taking. To address this, staff were providing as many opportunities as possible for children to mix with others and build confidence in social situations.
There continues to be an impact on children’s physical development, including delays in babies learning to crawl and walk. Some providers reported that children had regressed in their independence and self-care skills. As a result, several have increased the amount of time children spend on physical activities, to develop gross motor skills.
An increasing number of providers were concerned that, compared with before the pandemic, fewer children have learned to use the toilet independently. This means that more children may not be ready for school by age 4. Providers were also concerned about obesity and dental health, so have focused on providing well-balanced meals and increased time for physical activity. Unfortunately, the UK Government cannot be blamed for this one. This is solely down to parenting, or the lack thereof.
Many providers reported difficulties retaining high-quality staff since the start of the pandemic. This has left some short of skilled practitioners, which has affected the quality of teaching and catch-up strategies.
Some providers are also concerned about their long-term sustainability given fluctuations in numbers of children on roll.
The ‘Education Recovery in Schools‘ report finds that Government policy to close schools and then conduct mass testing of children upon their return and forcing them to isolate if they received a questionable positive result despite having no symptoms, continued to hinder pupils’ learning and personal development into this year.
Leaders still described gaps in pupils’ knowledge, particularly in mathematics, phonics and writing stamina.
Inspectors saw schools were using effective strategies to check what pupils have learned and to adapt the curriculum to fill gaps in knowledge and skills. Some schools were using regular assessment to identify what pupils have remembered and providing time to revisit concepts that had not been learned well remotely.
The impact of UK Government policy in the name of Covid-19 on some pupils’ mental health and well-being remains a concern. Leaders talked about pupils having lower levels of resilience and confidence, and increased levels of anxiety. Many schools were providing in-house support for these pupils because external agencies often had long wait times. This has been particularly challenging for special schools, who rely on a lot of support from other agencies.
Some schools were using the National Tutoring Programme to help pupils who need additional support, but most told Ofsted they preferred to train their own staff as tutors rather than using tuition partners, mainly due to a lack of available tutors. However, this placed additional pressures on school staff.
Staff absence related to COVID-19 was a challenge for schools in the spring term, which was exacerbated by difficulties recruiting supply teachers. This resulted in increased staff workloads, as schools used their own staff to cover lessons.
The ‘Education Recovery in Further Education and Skills‘ report found that providers have continued to respond to the ongoing challenges of Government Covid-19 policy with creativity and resilience. New elements have been added to programmes to reflect the impact on the employment landscape, and there has been increased collaboration across the sector to address gaps in learning.
Sixth form colleges noted that many learners had lower levels of knowledge and skills, and were adapting their curriculum to help them make progress.
Work experience placements remained difficult to secure, particularly in health and social care, but providers were working hard to offer alternatives.
The disruption to GCSEs experienced by the newest intake of learners had adversely affected behaviours and attitudes. Providers reported that social skills and confidence had dwindled, and more disruptive behaviour was observed.
The recruitment and retention of staff was challenging for many providers. In some cases, this had impacted on the quality of education and increased staff workloads.
Mental health concerns remain high. New learners who had enrolled from school were experiencing higher levels of exam anxiety. Providers were offering additional support to help learners increase their stamina and prepare for formal examinations.
Many apprentices were not at the required level to take their end-point assessments, and a significant number remained on programmes beyond their planned end date.
These new reports highlight the devastation caused to children because of the UK Governments response to an alleged virus that kills less than 0.2% of those it infects. The UK Government has hampered the prospects of an entire generation, and saddled the entire country with a mountain of debt. The role of Government should be to make people happy, but the only role this Government has played is one of a tin pot dictatorship causing untold misery to millions of lives, fully supported by the opposition all the way.
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