Ofsted’s Chief Inspector has warned that many children have “deteriorated” due to the closure of kindergartens and schools during the lockdown.
Amanda Spielman said the blocking of the virus had affected children’s education, their personal development and their physical fitness.
Speaking on the School and Academies Show, she warned that for many children, lockdown was “much worse” than simply putting their lives on hold.
And her comments came after a series of watchdog reports found that some youths started using diapers again and forgot to eat with a knife and fork, while older children now lack ‘stamina’ at reading and writing.
Ms. Spielman said Ofsted’s work highlighted “how many children lose” if they don’t go to school.
She said, “Obviously, it is primarily about the education they lack, but so much about their personal development and physical fitness, which naturally extends into mental health, but physical health is also important.”
She said that in normal times, school staff are able to recognize the vulnerable children in need of support and refer them to broader services.
But Ms. Spielman said, “What comes out of our work, and what we reported on in briefings last week, is how many children have actually deteriorated without the steady reinforcement that all those structures and systems around children provide.
“Where we may have thought that lockdown in some way put the lives of children on hold, we can now see that it has done much worse than that for many children.”
She said, “We also see – I think I hear a lot from parents across the board – that teenagers are often not motivated and that is very difficult for parents if they are not motivated. And that’s something we definitely see in the socio-economic spectrum. “
Ms Spielman said there is “a significant degree of variability” in what schools have been able to provide.
And she said that this leaves some children with limited opportunities in certain schools, regardless of their background.
Ofsted plans to restart the full inspection program in January 2021, months after inspections were suspended, although the final decision on when to restart will be up to ministers.
But the superintendent stressed that Ofsted would not try to “find fault” with schools about their handling of the pandemic.
“For example, we are not going to judge people afterwards on what they did last summer,” she added.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will make an announcement about inspections in the coming weeks.
At the same event, he said it was “important” that inspections were resumed at the “right time and in the right way”.
Mr Williamson said: “When we first closed schools to all children except a few in March, it was clear that we could not continue to put schools under the added pressure of an Ofsted inspection, but as we move forward into 2021 , we should start planning for a time when they can reboot. “
He added: “I fully intend to continue to play his vital role of Ofsted as we work through the pandemic, but in a way that ensures all inspection results are fair, especially in terms of comparisons made over the course of the pandemic. time between schools.
“We will continue to look at this very carefully and, together with Ofsted and the sector, we are looking at what can be achieved safely and sensitively.”
Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of the NAHT School Leaders’ Union, said, “Keeping schools safe and responding to positive cases has become a full-time job.
“The last thing that’s needed right now is inspectors going from school to school diverting staff from that essential work, and we know parents don’t want to see that either.
“What we need from the government is a clear message that routine Ofsted inspections will be suspended for the remainder of the academic year. Vague statements about a possible return next year are neither helpful nor unnecessary. “