Leading education charity, The Sutton Trust is urging the UK government to put early years at the forefront of the post-Covid education recovery programme; warning that schools in England “will pick up the pieces if early years are not prioritised”.

It is calling for increased funding for the sector, and states: “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.”

In a YouGov poll commissioned by the Trust, 20% of the 570 parents of two- to four-year-olds who took part said they felt the pandemic had had a negative impact on their child’s physical development. 25% said the same of their child’s language development, and 52% said their child’s social and emotional development had been negatively affected. 69% felt that not being able to play with other children had had an adverse effect on their child.

The government is shortly due to announce its long-term plans for education recovery and funding post-pandemic. It has already pledged £1.7bn for short-term catchup, including a £350m national tutoring programme providing one-to-one and small group tutoring for those most severely affected by the disruption to education.

Purnima Tanuku OBE, Chief Executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) said:

“Today’s parental survey backs up what nurseries are telling us, that young children’s development, especially their social and communication skills, have suffered as a result of the pandemic. This is why we need to focus educational recovery starting with the youngest children in early years.

“Learning and development starts in a child’s first few weeks and months, therefore education recovery plans must start by looking at supporting our youngest children. They have missed out on time with their wider families, with children of their same age group and lost time in formal early education settings.

“We know that access to high quality early years education is the single biggest factor in reducing the attainment and inequality gap and gives all children best start in life. So the proposal to widen eligibility for funded places to more families could help address lost time in settings. However, the funding rates have to cover providers’ costs if this is to happen and be sustainable. If not, settings will close and there won’t be enough places for all the children who need them.

“Money spent on early education pays dividends in the long run. But the Government must act fast if we are to avoid a lost generation of young learners.”

The full story, as reported by The Guardian, can be read here.


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