I’ve got a new T-Shirt. It’s printed with this slogan:
‘Primary Charter 4 Too Young to Test’.
A bit of fun? Yes. But there’s a serious message.
This Government could well be described as the snatcher of childhood
. It plans to test all 4-year-olds on their maths, literacy and communication skills at the start of their school lives.
It is important, of course, to assess children’s learning during their time in reception. This already happens in England. But it’s based on careful observation and interaction not formal, standardized tests.
It’s not as if these baseline tests haven’t been tried before. They were introduced in 1997 but abandoned in 2002. Why? Because they didn’t support children’s development and were time consuming to administer.
Children in England are already among the most tested in the developed world
. There’s evidence that exam-related stress among children is increasing. If these tests go ahead, our reception tots will be among the very youngest to undertake formal assessment.
So why is the Government introducing these tests? They’re supposed to provide a baseline from which to forecast future progress. At the end of primary school, each pupil’s test results will be matched against this expected progress. As Professor Colin Richards
says, ‘It all sounds very sensible and straightforward.’
But it isn’t. As Professor Richards points out, devising an accurate test at for such young children is impossible.
4-year-olds are lively and have short attention spans – test performance can be affected by such things as time of day, willingness to co-operate and age (summer born children are particularly likely to be adversely affected). At the same time, these little children pick up signals and could be affected by test-related anxiety from teachers or parents.
The Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY
) also has doubts. In addition to the points above, it’s concerned the tests would ‘unfairly label children’. They focus on a limited range of skills: maths, literacy and communication and divert attention from supporting children’s social and emotional development during their first few weeks in school.
The well-regarded Early Years Foundation Stage Profile, already in place, is to be dropped ‘in favour of a flawed and unreliable assessment system that poses a major threat to children’s experience of early education.’
PACEY and Professor Richards are not alone. A chorus of voices is against these tests including author Philip Pullman
who is among 80 signatories to a Guardian
letter arguing why the tests should be stopped; the British Association for Early Childhood Education
, Save Childhood Movement, Professor Cathy Nutbrown
and John Coe
of the National Association for Primary Education.
‘What is offered is not assessment, it is purely the gathering of flawed data,’
says John Coe.
And that ‘flawed data’ together with all other test results and Morgan’s proposal for children to be tracked into adulthood via their tax records will prove an irresistible lure for companies wanting to get their hands on such information. There are Data Privacy issues here which haven’t yet been discussed.
Perhaps parents should be very worried about the information being held about their children and the unnecessary stress put on them to gain this data. Most of it has no educational value.
See Michael Rosen
talking at an event yesterday in Lloyd Park Walthamstow. He calls on parents to say No to the tests and call on their schools to exercise their right to opt out. (The lady holding the speaker is wearing the T-shirt!)