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Ninety-eight per cent of people against formal testing of young children

Article By: Sue Learner, News Editor

Ninety-per cent of people are against formal testing of young children, according to a poll carried out by

Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Ofsted

The findings come in the wake of a call by a group of child development experts for formal schooling to be delayed.

The letter to the Daily Telegraph, signed by 127 leading figures including Sir Al Aynsley-Green, the former Children’s Commissioner for England, Lord Layard, director of the Well-Being Programme at the London School of Economics, Dr David Whitebread, senior lecturer in psychology of education at Cambridge University, and Catherine Prisk, director of Play England, claims there is a “too much, too soon” culture in nurseries and schools with an emphasis on school readiness and formal learning.

The letter, which has also been signed by the NUT, NASUWT, ATL and the Pre-School Learning Alliance, says ‘current policy suggestions would mean that the tests and targets which dominate primary education will soon be foisted upon four-year-olds’.

However the survey carried out by, a leading online guide to nurseries, has found 1,082 of the 1,108 (98 per cent) people who voted disagreed with more formal testing for young children, with only 26 (two per cent) in favour.

In a recent speech, Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, said he would like to see more nurseries and primary schools carrying out regular assessments of young children as he believes the most effective nurseries and schools are those which regularly assess children and set high expectations.

He said: “Most importantly, in the best nursery and primary schools there is a systematic, rigorous and consistent approach to assessment, right from the very start.”

Sir Michael would like to see “this good practice” being applied nationally.

Dr Richard House, senior lecturer in Early Childhood Studies, University of Winchester called it “unprecedented for the head of Ofsted to advocate a policy innovation, and for 98 per cent of those expressing a view to oppose it”.

He said: “I expected a majority of voters to be against pre-school baseline assessment, but I’m both shocked and delighted at the sheer scale of the opposition.”

Davina Ludlow, director of, said: “The results of this survey are so interesting with such a huge majority voting against testing and assessment of young children.

“The poll clearly shows people are not in favour of Ofsted’s wish to move in a direction of more formal assessment.”

Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister, recently put forward a proposal in a new consultation for children to be formally tested in the first six weeks of primary school. The tests would introduce a ‘baseline’ when children start Reception so their progress can be tracked from the very beginning. Currently the ‘baseline’ is when children sit tests in Year two.


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