Children ‘returned to nappies and forgot how to use cutlery in lockdown’

Ofsted found children ‘regressed’ back into nappies in lockdown (Picture: PA)

The pandemic has caused some potty-trained children to lapse back into nappies and forget how to eat with a knife and fork, Ofsted has warned.

Worrying findings by the watchdog suggest children hardest hit by nursery and school closures have regressed in some basic skills and learning.

Some youngsters have fallen behind with their mathematics, while older children now lack ‘stamina’ in reading and writing.

School leaders have also reported a rise in pupils self-harming or suffering from eating disorders.

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The report into the impact of the pandemic is based on more than 900 visits to education and social care providers across England since September.

Inspectors found children’s experiences were not necessarily determined by privilege or deprivation.

But the children who are coping well have good support structures around them, the report found.

It suggests some toilet-trained children have returned to early years settings, using nappies and dummies at an older age than expected by providers.

Ofsted’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman said young children, whose parents were unable to work more flexibly in lockdown, had experienced the ‘double whammy’ of less time with parents and less time with other children.

The report comes as Ms Spielman is due to appear before MPs on the Education Select Committee to speak about the impact of Covid-19 on pupils.

On the findings, she said: ‘Leaders reported regression back into nappies among potty-trained children and others who had forgotten some basic skills they had mastered, such as eating with a knife and fork – not to mention the loss of early progress in words and numbers.’

The report found some pupils’ concentration, or their mental and physical stamina, had reduced during the pandemic, with headteachers reporting that students were finding it difficult to write for long periods of time.

‘Some leaders said pupils were fatigued, ‘disconnected’ from learning or struggling to stay awake and alert,’ the report adds.

Initial findings found that more than one in three schools had reported a rise in children being home educated.

Headteachers say this has been motivated by anxieties over Covid-19 rather than because educating at home had gone well during the first lockdown.

Schools are providing remote learning to children who have had to self-isolate at home, but there appears to be some variation in how schools approach the way in which they deliver home learning.

Ms Spielman said: ‘It remains the case that the home learning experience is patchy and, in many cases, not aligned effectively with the classroom curriculum.’

But she acknowledged that it also requires motivation from pupils who may be distracted by ‘technological temptations’.

Heads told inspectors that boys had spent much of the lockdown video gaming, and they said it was influencing some boys’ behaviour in school.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: ‘The Government has been clear that getting all pupils and students back into full-time education is a national priority.’

She added: ‘We know that some children do need additional support to catch up as a result of the pandemic, which is why we launched a £1 billion Covid catch-up fund for schools to support those children who need it.

‘Our National Tutoring Programme is now live in schools, providing intensive support to the most disadvantaged children. The evidence shows high-quality tutoring can make up as much as three to five months’ lost learning.’

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