Covid 19 lockdowns led to ‘separation anxiety’ in young children

Very young children in Leeds are struggling to socialise with one another and suffering ‘serious anxiety’ at being separated from their parents, a senior Leeds decision-maker has claimed.

By Richard Beecham
Thursday, 14th October 2021, 4:45 am

It follows a report which claims the speech and language development of pre-school children, as they have spend an inordinate amount of time at home during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Leeds City Council’s executive member for children and families Coun Fiona Venner (Lab) added that many children now entering reception are simply not ready for school, such was the amount of pre-school they missed.

The comments were made at a meeting of the council’s children’s scrutiny board, which was discussing a report into the pandemic’s effect on children’s social care and early learning.

Concerns over whether children are ready for school.

Coun Venner said: “Children’s centres are experiencing children who are really distressed at being left by their parents, and have really significant separation anxiety.

“They have not even been going to see grandparents – you have babies that weren’t held by anyone other than parents for months, so this is one of the impacts of the pandemic that we don’t yet know how it will manifest over the weeks, months and years as this group of babies and small children grow and develop.

“They have not been in extended families or with other babies, so their ability to be around other children and to socialise and cope with noise is really different.

“Our staff are really on it, they are looking at it in individual centres and sharing practice.

“But their language is not where it should be – speech and language is probably one of the biggest impacts in terms of development.”

The claims early years workers in the city have noticed that a lack of play and socialisation among children aged 2-4 over the past 18 months has led to difficulties in them being ready for school.

It added that there was also a shortage of staff in the sector, and that the number and quality of applicants coming into the early years childcare setting was not sufficient.

Coun Venner added: “At a primary school reception class that I went to recently, the headteacher said ‘you’ll have to excuse these children – they are really wriggly because they have missed so much of pre-school.

“In terms of their ability to sit down is not normally where it would be in reception. This is really one to watch – it will be interesting to see this cohort of children as they go through their education.”

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