Lockdown has made a negative impact on the language skills of young children, research reveals.
Data gleaned from 50,000 pupils and a survey of schools across England have shown an increase in four- and five-year-olds needing help with their language.
The evidence is that poor speech development can have a long-term effect on learning.
The Government says it will invest £18 million a year for youngsters to catch up.
Extra help will be given to children in a Reception year.
The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) research reveals the measures taken to combat the Covid-19 pandemic have deprived children of social contact and skills essential for increasing vocabulary.
Little or no contact with grandparents, social distancing, no playtime with others, and face masks have left children exposed to fewer conversations and everyday experiences.
EEF chief executive Prof Becky Francis said:
“There is huge concern expressed by schools about young children’s speech and language following the impact of the pandemic.
“We can see that in the survey results but also anecdotally right across our networks.”