Isolation during Covid pandemic has delayed kids' social skills, new study says

A study by the U.K. government's education authority Ofsted has found the children continue to struggle with basic skills such as writing and speech in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sabrina Bracher | iStock | Getty Images

Kids continue to struggle with basic skills such as writing and speaking in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, a new study by the U.K. government's education authority has found.

These were among the findings of a series of reports published on Monday by Ofsted, which were based on evidence from around 280 inspections of educational institutions across different age groups, as well as focus groups with the government department's inspectors.  

In the "early years" group, Ofsted found that education providers had noted delays in young children's development of speech and language. Some providers also found that babies had struggled to respond to basic facial expressions, which they said could be due to reduced social interaction amid the coronavirus pandemic and associated lockdowns.

In addition, some education providers highlighted the fact that kids lacked confidence in group activities, while toddlers and pre-schoolers needed help in learning to share and take turns.

Providers also noticed how the pandemic had affected young children's physical development, such as a delay in babies learning to crawl and walk. Some reported that children had regressed in their independence and self-care skills, prompting providers to spend longer with kids on physical activities, in order to help develop gross motor skills.

Meanwhile, school-aged children were found to have gaps in math, phonics and "writing stamina," though educators said that, compared with the previous semester, gaps in knowledge were closing.

As was the case in many countries around the world, the Covid-19 pandemic forced U.K. schools to close to the vast majority of children, meaning many were educated at home during the country's lockdowns.

School children's mental health also remained a concern, with educators noticing lower levels of resilience and confidence, as well as increased anxiety, among students.

In fact, the part of the report that focused on this particular age group said some schools had noticed that the pandemic had affected the subjects that students choose to study ahead of high school and pre-college exams, known as GSCEs and A Levels respectively.

For example, a few schools noticed that fewer students were choosing to study all of the main sciences — biology, chemistry and physics. And one educator believed that fewer students were choosing to study another language because they suffered from lower confidence following lockdowns.

Schools also noticed how the pandemic had affected students' technology skills. "For example, one school noted that pupils were only comfortable using touch-screen devices, so they have addressed this by focusing on using desktop computers," the report said.

Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman said that while progress had been made with efforts to help children catch-up on what they had missed, it was "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," she said.

Check out: UK could ban students from college loans if they fail math and English