Ofsted report finds Covid lockdowns have affected a generation of young children’s development – Immersive Reality responds with an innovative solution

  • The pandemic has led to children lacking in essential life skills
  • There is a particular lack in social interaction, as well as the development of fine and gross motor skills
  • Immersive Reality uses shared virtual reality spaces which can assist in the development of these skills

Ofsted released a report on Monday 4th April, stating that the pandemic has left a generation of children struggling to talk, crawl, make friends, and even understand facial expressions.

Rising numbers of children are having delays in their development, and are struggling to communicate with those around them, after having fewer opportunities to develop their emotional and social skills during the pandemic.

Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, has said that the worst affected were children living in smaller homes without gardens, who would be likely to be spending more time on screens and indoors during lockdowns.

She said: “I’m particularly worried about younger children’s development, which, if left unaddressed, could potentially cause problems for primary schools down the line.”

In the Ofsted briefing, based on inspections of 70 providers in January and February 2022, it was found that some children had “limited vocabulary”, while some babies had “struggled to respond to basic facial expressions”, partly due to the frequent wearing of face masks.

Children turning two years old will have been surrounded by adults wearing masks for their whole lives, meaning they rarely see lip movements or mouth shapes as regularly.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Spielman stated that the pandemic had resulted in delays in both speech and language, as well as caused problems with social interaction and confidence for young children – such as not understanding how to take turns and share, as well as struggling to make friends.

Children were also found to be below the expected level in developing essential self-care skills, such as tying their shoelaces, taking their coats off and even blowing their noses.
Amanda Spielman said: “Children have had less time in early education, less time interacting with others outside the family. For some children they’ve not much interaction at all if they’ve spent all their time looking at screens.”

She has advised parents to speak to their children as much as possible, and take them out for walks to places such as the shops and the park, so they can interact with people as well as get some exercise. “Those basic parenting things are more important than delaying their entrance to school,” she said.

In schools, Ofsted found the pandemic was continuing to affect pupils’ knowledge and mental health, with leaders reporting increased anxiety and disruptive behaviour.

Schools reported delays in accessing services for speech and language support, as well as mental health services. Special schools reported being particularly affected by this, as they rely on external services more than other schools.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Our ambitious recovery plan continues to roll out across the country, with nearly £5 billion invested in high quality tutoring, world class training for teachers and early years practitioners, additional funding for schools, and extending time in colleges by 40 hours a year.”
In addition to this, some staff members at nurseries have come up with innovative ways to help young children catch up, such as a “chatter group” where pupils can discuss activities they’ve done.

They have also encouraged children to express their feelings through “emotion cards” which show images of children displaying different facial expressions.
Ideas such as these are a fantastic way to ensure children can improve the skills they have missed out on developing over the past couple of years.
Founded in early 2020, amid the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Immersive Reality has grown in a changing world, and we have developed specific content to address the social and practical issues that have arisen during the pandemic.

We have based our philosophy on assisting the improvement of educational and key life skills in young children – particularly for those with special educational needs.

Our unique and innovative spaces are a classroom, sensory room and therapy room all in one. Combining high definition projection on multiple walls and floors, we produce experiences which are inclusive for all.

Put simply, it is virtual reality without the headset. Removing the need for headsets makes virtual reality more accessible and provides collaborative, shared experiences – this is particularly beneficial for those with special needs, and children who need to strengthen social skills.
Accessible for all, the system works with a variety of controllers, and has touch-sensitive interactive walls. Our extensive range of content develops both fine and gross motor skills, as well as hand to eye coordination, colour recognition and cause and effect skills.

Children can walk through a variety of awe-inspiring scenes, such as a calming virtual meadow, and interact with the birds and butterflies. They can then talk about these experiences with their classmates.

It’s perfect for encouraging interaction and getting children to discuss what they’ve seen – a talking point even for the most introverted pupils. This develops turn taking skills, encourages working in a team and reduces social barriers.

Developing friendships whilst discussing experiences within the room is beneficial for learning to read facial expressions, helping children to catch up on the skills they have been lacking due to the pandemic.

With our historical scenes, such as visiting ancient cities in Greece, you can take pupils on a journey back in time, helping them visualise exactly what they’re learning about. This is especially useful for subjects such as history and geography, where pupils benefit from being immersed in the areas and time periods they’re studying.

Visit a Japanese temple, explore a Viking village, and even travel to ancient Egypt! These visually appealing scenes give students a better understanding of historical events and places, whilst being entertaining at the same time.

The wide range of scenes in our immersive spaces spark the imagination and encourage creative thinking. This in turn inspires creative writing, as pupils can be asked to write about what they have seen within the room, and can create their own stories based on their experiences!

Not only can immersive spaces help pupils to learn, but our range of content at Immersive Reality also includes simulations – such as navigating the London underground, going shopping, catching a bus and boarding an aircraft.

These help the development of many key life skills, such as navigation skills, social skills, time keeping and decision making, amongst many others. Our interactive scenes allow pupils to draw on the walls, and interact with fun colours and shapes! Perfect for enhancing hand to eye coordination and dexterity skills.

There are many safe and relaxing scenes within our system, which can help anxious or overwhelmed children. This includes calming forests and candle-lit scenes, to interactive scenes, where children can draw on the walls and play with fun colours and shapes.

Immersive spaces provide a fun, unique and engaging alternative to traditional learning, as they ensure that all students have the opportunity to get involved with a range of experiences, and can assist children in strengthening the skills they have sadly missed out on due to the pandemic.

If you’d like to find out more about Immersive Reality, contact us on 0161 731 0010 or email us at [email protected]. We’d love to hear from you!

You can also fill out our contact form here.