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Ofsted report: Nearly all children have fallen behind due to pandemic

NEARLY all children have fallen behind in their education as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a bleak Ofsted report published today.

Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman said that young children’s progress and development had faltered amid the Covid-19 crisis, with some regressing in basic language and social skills.

Loss of education, disrupted routines and a lack of activities “led some children to develop physical and mental health problems,” the watchdog’s report found.

“Loneliness, boredom and misery became endemic among the young,” it added. 

Launching the Ofsted annual report for 2020-21, Ms Spielman said: “The education and social care sectors have been under tremendous strain since the pandemic began and their staff have worked tirelessly in children’s interests.

“Their efforts deserve the highest praise. But the challenges of Covid-19 were so great that nearly every child has felt the impact of the resulting restrictions.

“In order to protect older generations, we asked the youngest generation to put their lives and education on hold. As we look forward to the year ahead, we must strive to redress the balance.”

The chief inspector also criticised “hokey-cokey education” during the pandemic “in the classroom, at home, separated in bubbles, isolating alone.”

Concerns were also raised about children in care, reporting that in the worst cases, “increased levels of anxiety led to self-harm or destructive behaviour.”

But teaching unions criticised the Ofsted report for failing to challenge the government or acknowledge the effects of inspections on schools amid pandemic pressures. 

National Education Union joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said: “In these phases of recovery from the pandemic and ongoing concerns about omicron, our schools certainly do not need an inspection regime which puts additional pressure on headteachers and school staff and refuses to acknowledge the ongoing impacts.  

“While the chief inspector reports on children’s lost classroom time over the past year, there is little in her report that challenges the government.”

Association of School and College Leaders general secretary Geoff Barton described the government’s response to the crisis as “wholly inadequate.” 

He said: “The government must provide more public health support to schools and colleges in terms of testing and improved ventilation and Ofsted itself must do more to recognise that inspections at this time are extremely problematic. 

“We have asked the inspectorate to allow inspections to be deferred upon request to a later date, and while it has slightly softened its criteria for deferrals, it has not gone far enough in this respect.”

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