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Children in Britain may be ‘guinea pigs’ for controversial new testing for five-year-olds, which has been rejected by other European countries.
The possible new tests were disclosed in an ‘expression of interest’ by the Department for Education, seen by The Telegraph.
The expression of interest stated that: “Currently three countries - including the UK (represented by England and possibly Wales) - have agreed to participate in the IELS pilot study. Scotland and Northern Ireland will not take part.”
Peter Moss, emeritus professor of early years education at University College London’s Institute of Education, said that there was concern in the sector that these tests would result in the narrowing of the curriculum if too much importance were placed on results.
He told The Telegraph: “The big fear is that it’s going to reduce the diversity and creativity of approaches to early childhood development, as countries pursue better results in these tests.
“A lot of people in early years are concerned about that.”
The tablet-based tests will be run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and have been described as the ‘pre-school PISA’, a test which already exists for 15-year-olds to provide a national benchmark for comparing the education systems in over 70 countries.
The proposed testing for children aged five to five and a half will look at four aspects of pupil development: literacy, language and verbal skills, numeracy and mathematics, self-regulation and ability to pay attention; and empathy and trust.
But Mathias Urban, professor of early childhood at the University of Roehampton, said that such a standardised approach will not be reflective of children’s early years experiences.
Lead author of a paper backed by 170 academics which criticises the OECD’s plans, Professor Mathias said: “There is a lot of resistance to this developing, internationally.
“People are basically saying that this standardised assessment approach is not going to provide any useful information in terms of the diverse experiences of young children around the world.”
A spokesperson for the OECD, however, told The Telegraph that the “research” would help children get a “strong early start in their lives.”
She added: “The study will help countries to see what is working well and where improvements could be made, including the experiences and outcomes of other participating countries.”
A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “Making sure our youngest children are given the tools to achieve their full potential is vital, and high quality early education is such an important part of this.
“That’s why we are investing a record £6bn per year by 2020.”
Department for Education is yet to make a final decision on whether the UK will take part in the pilot.
Should the Government choose to participate, the pilot is set to take place in autumn 2018 in at least 200 schools, encompassing a representative sample of 3,000 children.