Research School Network: The Impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on our Early Years Children – A view from Highfield Nursery School, Ipswich The Impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on our Early Years Children – A view from Highfield Nursery School, Ipswich

The Impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on our Early Years Children – A view from Highfield Nursery School, Ipswich

The Impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on our Early Years Children – A view from Highfield Nursery School, Ipswich

A reflection of the impact of the pandemic on the crucial stages of Early Years development.

Highfield Nursery School is proud to have taken part in recent research commissioned by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and conducted by a team from University of York, National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) and the Education Policy Institute (EPI). Their findings have now been published by the EEF and outline emerging evidence on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on reception age children EEF-School-Starters.pdf (

When children returned to our nursery after the pandemic, many struggled with vital aspects of early years development, such as personal touch, or coping in bigger groups of children. We saw more children who had separation anxiety from their parents too. Some children were further behind with speech and language development than we’d expect’.

But we’ve also seen some positives too. We’ve developed our use of online technology platforms to better communicate with parents and families. We’ve also seen the benefits of sharing stories remotely. This has been a real boost for our children – Ruth Coleman, Head Teacher at Highfield Nursery School, Ipswich

The report identified fewer early years children have reached expected development standards associated with communication and language, literacy and numeracy as well as emotional skills, with disruption from the pandemic on their learning cited as a significant contributing factor.

The proportion of children reaching the expected levels in all EYFS outcome areas had fallen from 72% in 2019, to 59% in 2021.

Talking on Times Radio and Radio Suffolk, Highfield Nursery School headteacher, Ruth Coleman, outlined and illustrated a selection of the challenges faced in the light of the pandemic and how these have impacted on the nursery children at Highfield Nursery School.

Focusing on language, it was evident that children returning after the first lock down had some functional language such as, I’m hungry, cold or tired’, but did not have expressive language which is important in role play and adding a narrative to their play. They did not have social language which is supports making friendships, talking to peers, collaboration and negotiation. The EEF’s guidance Preparing for Literacy’ Preparing for Literacy | EEF ( focuses on 7 recommendations as lever points’ to support language and literacy teaching.

It’s clear that quality first teaching, embedding evidence-based practice and early identification of need, followed by swift early intervention is vital for children to make rapid progress during the early stages of development and discussed further in the interviews. The EEF has published further resources to support schools in their approach to educational recovery. EEF blog: Moving Forwards, Making a Difference | EEF ( and EEF blog: Understanding the impact of COVID on learning | EEF (

Experiences in early education have an important impact on learning throughout life, so it was important for Highfield during this time to continue in supporting children with different activities; like singing, storytelling and nursery rhymes, to develop children’s early reading and ability to hear and manipulate sounds. Some of the activities were delivered online for example sing story related activities to help in Improving young children’s vocabulary and modelling interactions. Preparing for Literacy | EEF (

The approach at Highfield during this time is developed with contextualised knowledge of the children and community they serve. Providing a nurturing and therapeutic approach to deliver support to children, embedding opportunities for self-regulation through shared activities online or delivering bespoke activities to their homes; including sharing; jigsaws, books about emotions, instructions for glitter jars. In addition, recognising the continuous need for parental engagement through phone-calls and sharing videos to model behaviour and to maintain important relations during this time. Parental engagement | EEF (

The full interviews are available by following the links below:

Mariella Frostrup: Latest headlines | Times Radio | The Times and The Sunday Times – (Start point 8minutes)

Part 2Mariella Frostrup: The 2.45pm Interview | Times Radio | The Times and The Sunday Times

BBC Radio Suffolk – Lesley Dolphin

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