Schools faced with pupils in nappies or sucking dummies

Heads also notice how children play alone in silence, not interacting, as Ofsted warns of pandemic 'regression' and loss of basic skills

Claudia Civinini and Catherine Lough

more pupils in nappies

Teachers are seeing more pupils coming into schools in nappies or sucking dummies, heads say.

And inside the classroom, children are playing on their own and not with each other, headteacher Simon Kidwell told BBC Radio 4's Today this morning. 

The head of Hartford Manor Primary in Northwich, Cheshire, said he was also speaking for thousands of other school leaders.

His comments came as Ofsted reported on worrying findings in early years education. Chief inspector Amanda Spielman said heads "reported regression back into nappies among potty-trained children and others who had forgotten some basic skills they had mastered, such as eating with a knife and fork – not to mention the loss of early progress in words and numbers".

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Mr Kidwell said: "I’ve read the Ofsted report and I think the things listed in the report are reflected in my school community and the nursery.

"We’ve seen an increase in children in nappies coming into school, an increase in the children sucking a dummy when they’re dropped off at school and it’s also the reflection of the 5,000 headteachers I represent as part of [school leaders' union] NAHT in the North West, it's not just my school."

Others have reported on an increased number of toilet accidents in schools since the pandemic began.

Mr Kidwell explained it was difficult to say whether children had "regressed" as they were new pupils who came in aged 3, but he said: "We don’t usually see that high [a] proportion of children in nappies."

He added: "The most striking thing is when you go and see the children playing in the classroom there’s actually silence, so the children aren’t playing together, they’re playing on their own, they’re playing in silence so that’s very unusual for children at that age and we’re doing lots of work to promote speech and language."

However, he explained that staff absences are making the delivery of the curriculum very difficult.

He said: "The amount of disruption we’re getting in terms of staff absences means that some of that catch-up that we planned to do in the first half term was curtailed."

Ofsted also highlighted other consequences of the coronavirus pandemic on pupils: some have "slipped back" in their learning, and others have lost physical fitness and some are showing signs of mental distress.

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Claudia Civinini and Catherine Lough

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