Calls for early years to be at heart of education recovery plan

The Sutton Trust has claimed that a majority of parents of pre-school children are worried about the impact on their child’s overall development or well-being during the pandemic.

According to a poll, 20 per cent of the 570 parents of two-four year-olds surveyed feel that their child’s physical development had been impacted negatively during the pandemic, and 25 per cent feel similarly about their language development. However, a much bigger concern for parents is the impact on their child’s social and emotional development, with 52 per cent citing this as being negatively impacted.

Furthermore, 69 per cent of parents feel that not being able to play with other children has negatively impacted their child. A smaller proportion (63 per cent) report that being unable to see other close relatives has affected their child.

The Sutton Trust is calling on the government to put the development and well-being of pre-school children at the heart of the education recovery plan.

In a short brief, the organisation sets out its priorities for education recovery, of which the early years is key: “The pandemic has reminded us how crucial the early years sector is for the functioning of our daily lives and our children’s futures. But it also laid bare the fragility of a sector which comprises many small and poorly funded private and voluntary providers, particularly those in less well-off areas.

“An increase in the Early Years Pupil Premium to levels equivalent to those in primary school would help, as well as increased rates of funding, to invest in a skilled workforce that can make the most impact. Above all, we need to see early years provision as an opportunity to provide a great start in life for all children, and not just as a way to provide childcare.”

The Sutton Trust is working with The Sylvia Adams Charitable Trust to look in depth at how government policy can promote development in the early years. Specifically, the project will be looking at how to prioritise high quality early education and reduce the early years attainment gap before it takes hold.

Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: “No one doubts that the impact of the pandemic on children’s and young people’s life chances is going to have repercussions for many years – even decades – to come. Our own research has highlighted the disproportionate impact of school closures on poorer students, who have struggled most with home schooling.

“The recovery plan must be ambitious and long-term. Crucially, funding and efforts need to be focused on the most disadvantaged. But as today’s polling shows, we cannot forget the youngest children. It is more important than ever that there is greater access to high quality early education for younger children from poorer homes whose development is at risk of suffering the most.”

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