Testing Children Age Four Pointless

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GIVING children as young as four exams as soon as they start school is ‘pointless’ the National Education Union (NEU) said yesterday, calling for the baseline assessment pilot to be scrapped.

Tory education minister Nick Gibb said that the Department for Education (DfE) will be looking for schools to take part in a pilot scheme for the proposed baseline assessment tests, despite parents and teachers alike up in arms about the idea of testing and labelling children so young.

Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: ‘Schools Minister Nick Gibb claims that making all four year olds take a baseline test as soon as they enter school will provide a “fair and accurate measure” of their attainment.

‘This is completely misleading. Mr Gibb has been told by an expert panel of the British Educational Research Association that testing four year olds will not produce reliable results, and that the case for baseline testing has not been made.

‘Baseline testing is a waste of teachers’ time and public money. The government should listen to what teachers, school leaders and education experts are saying: It is time that they stopped thinking that the answer to problems of assessment and accountability is to introduce new tests.

‘Given the workload crisis and the uselessness of this test many schools will not sign up to Mr Gibb’s pointless pilot, and the NEU will support them in that decision.’

Professional Association for Children and Early Years (PACEY) said: ‘The government is planning to introduce “baseline assessments” for all children which will take place within weeks of children first joining primary school.

‘PACEY is against the introduction of these baseline assessments and has added its voice to a growing number of early years organisations and education experts to protest about these tests.

‘At PACEY, we recognise how important it is to assess young children’s learning throughout reception. This process of assessment currently happens very effectively in schools throughout England.

‘It starts with the vital information that you as childcare professionals provide to teachers in the transition reports you prepare and continues throughout the child’s reception year by the teacher carefully observing and interacting with the child.

‘The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Profile, which the teacher puts together at the end of Reception, gives a full and rounded picture of the child’s skills and abilities, based on continuous observation and assessment throughout the year.

‘We believe the new proposals pose a real risk to children’s early experience of school and will not help schools to effectively track children’s progress.

‘What’s wrong with these baseline tests? We believe the government should rethink because:

‘1. Baseline testing didn’t work last time.

‘We’ve been here before: A baseline test for children was introduced by the government in 1997 and abandoned in 2002 because it didn’t support individual children’s learning and development or give a measure of school effectiveness.

‘2. The results will be invalid.

‘As all parents, primary teachers and early years professionals know, starting school is a time of great change and different children react differently to it.

‘These tests are based on a narrow checklist of skills and knowledge and will not be an accurate measure of children’s starting points.

‘They do not take into account differences in age (how can a test fairly assess a child who is just over four as well as a child who is almost five?) or attitudes to learning.

‘Also, the computer-based, yes/no format of the tests isn’t suitable for the types of skills measured.

‘3. The tests would pressurise and unfairly label children.

‘The government’s plan is for schools to share the results of these tests with parents.

‘We feel strongly that labelling children with a “score” so early on in their school life could have a harmful effect on both the attitude of the teacher and the expectations of parents.

‘More directly, the pressure placed on the teacher in having to deliver these tests would detract them from the vitally important process of helping children settling in their first weeks of school.

‘4. They only measure a small part of the picture.

‘Baseline testing would mean focusing on scoring a child’s maths, literacy and communication abilities rather than social and emotional skills like sharing, taking turns and confidence in their own abilities, which research shows is so important for a successful start to school and in later life.

‘5. They will create the wrong priorities.

‘Using these tests to demonstrate the ‘value’ schools add risks, taking focus away from the child’s early experience of school in favour of a requirement for management and accountability.

‘The sole focus on academic skills, and pressures on teachers to “teach to the test” in those vital first few weeks would also be at the expense of support for children’s social and emotional development.

‘The most surprising element of these plans is that a more meaningful and effective measure of children’s starting points, the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile, is already in place.

‘The government is therefore planning to drop the requirement for this profile, as well as the useful national data it generates, in favour of a flawed and unreliable assessment system that poses a major threat to children’s experience of early education.’

  • Foreign language learning is at its lowest level in UK secondary schools since the turn of the millennium, with German and French falling the most.

New analysis shows drops of between 30% and 50% since 2013 in the numbers taking GCSE language courses in the worst affected areas in England.

A separate survey of secondaries suggests a third have dropped at least one language from their GCSE options.

In England, ministers say they are taking steps to reverse the decline.

The almost 4,000 mainstream secondary schools in the UK were contacted, and more than half – 2,048 – responded.

Of the schools which replied, most said the perception of languages as a difficult subject was the main reason behind a drop in the number of pupils studying for exams.

Figures for Wales showed that GCSE language entries fell by 29% over five years, and 35% of schools have dropped at least one language from their options at GCSE.

In Wales, it is compulsory for pupils to study Welsh until the age of 16 either as a first (for those already fluent) or second language.

And under the new curriculum, Welsh, English and international languages will be brought together in one area of learning.