OPINION: How has lockdown affected pupils’ language skills?
Lockdown deprived children of many educational experiences and the social contact essential in developing their vocabulary. Whether it was visits to grandparents and family, trips to the park, school or afterschool clubs, overnight we all witnessed life change.
But it’s our children who are paying the price.
As we start moving out of full lockdown restrictions, like many, I’ve taken time to reflect. A BBC article last week prompted me to think about the impact on our primary school aged children.
The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has highlighted their key findings after surveying 58 primary schools across England, showing the huge impact this has made on early years and foundation children:
- 76% said pupils starting school in September 2020 needed more support with communication than in previous years
- 96% said they were concerned about pupils’ speech-and-language development
While the study focuses on younger children, this issue is greater than early years alone. All children were deprived of normal life through lockdown. But primary school children in particular have suffered as a result.
Lockdown limited exposure to new words and vocabulary, despite parents’ and teachers’ efforts with home schooling. Poor speech development can have long-term effects on learning.
And it naturally affects confidence.
So, what resources can bridge the gap in literacy that the pandemic has created?
Technical tools to support literacy
Digital technology has proven its value in the classroom throughout the pandemic. It’s been the playground, teacher and conduit that’s maintained communication when our children were forced to stay at home. Digital classrooms, apps and screen time in general have become acceptable resources in education, for all ages, both in school and at home.
But this technology comes at a cost not every school or household can afford.
Children and Families Minister Vicky Ford explains:
“On top of the £3.5bn we have spent in each of the past three years on our free childcare entitlements, we have also invested £18m to support language development in the early years, part of our new £700m package to provide extra support to children who need it as they return to the classroom,”.
“This includes funding to build on the early successes of the Nuffield Early Language Intervention scheme and roll it out to more schools, so that thousands more four- and five-year-olds whose language, communication and literacy skills have been impacted by the disruption of the past year will benefit from targeted support.”
Many primary schools are relying on parents, local businesses and their communities to help provide the tech resources they need. From donating laptops and devices to sponsoring subscriptions to apps and educational programmes.
And we’re just one business who’s supported the demand.
Throughout lockdown, Fonetti supported literacy by providing free access to listening books from our digital library. We’re now supporting schools through a corporate sponsorship programme where businesses step in to sponsor an annual subscription to Fonetti to boost children’s literacy.
How does this benefit schools?
Accredited by the Department for Education’s Hungry Little Minds Campaign, Fonetti is one of a useful collection of technical tools available to teachers, parents and children to support learning and boost literacy.
While 1 in 9 children don’t have access to a reading book at home, 1 in 8 schools in the UK don’t have access to, or space for, a library.
Fonetti provides endless shelves of digital stories that don’t need any physical storage or quarantining. Which means children have instant access to stories at a price less than a high street coffee.
When it comes to language acquisition, every child is on their own individual journey. Fonetti allows teachers to tailor reading material to individual needs discreetly. Without children being conscious of what level their reading book is, compared to their peers, but just enjoying reading as a pastime.
Reading aloud on a 121 basis through an app that doesn’t judge the reader, or allow others to, but boosts a child’s confidence. It also provides a wealth of texts that introduce new words and enrich a child’s vocabulary.
Children who have missed out on social interactions due to lockdown can gain social and oral skills through reading aloud.
Skills that can unlock their potential for future learning of any subject.
Less limits, more learning
We can all help children develop the vocabulary that lockdown has delayed. Assistant head teacher Victoria Day shares her 5 Top Tips for increasing early years vocabulary.
But we mustn’t forget years 1-6 in primary education that also need support.
This is why we have the Fonetti Schools Portal, to support primary pupils and schools. You can either book a demo or sponsor an annual subscription for your local school and give the gift of reading to nurture bright futures in a post-pandemic world.