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New four-year-old testing is 'uninformed and educationally damaging'

Article By: Michaela Chirgwin

A campaign coalition has called on the Government to ditch the proposed £10m baseline test for four-year-olds, claiming it is ‘uninformed and educationally damaging’.

Credit: Katya Shut At a meeting yesterday, the coalition, More than a Score (MTAS) launched their dossier 'Baseline Assessment: it doesn’t add up'.

The scheme was originally announced by the Government back in September 2017, with a pilot scheme and evaluation in 2019/2020, and a national roll-out of the tests in 2020.

The proposals have been widely criticised by the early years community, who feel the best way for pre-schoolers to learn is through the current EYFS framework and that the £10m set aside for it could be used better elsewhere.

The MTAS report is a direct challenge to the Government’s growing focus on testing for young children, and the meeting was hosted by shadow minister for early years, Tracy Brabin, who said: "I’m pleased to be able to host so many passionate early years experts in Parliament and welcome the new ‘Baseline Assessment: it doesn’t add up’ research document”.

“I believe children learn through play and creativity, not just through examinations, that’s why it’s great More than a Score is leading on this important work.”

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, is a member of the coalition. She said: “Baseline assessment has everything to do with finding new ways of holding schools accountable and nothing to do with supporting the learning of children. The Government could do far more for children’s education by lifting them out of poverty than by spending £10 million on tests in which few education experts have any confidence.”

This is not the first time the controversial tests have been put forward. In 2015 and 2016 baseline assessments were proposed for four-year-olds which were meant to replace the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) profile. The policy was later dropped as there were concerns that the systems being used displayed different results from the exact same children.

Elaine Bennett from Keeping Early Years Unique, also a member of the coalition, called baseline testing "a pointless and expensive exercise which threatens children’s mental health at a crucial time in their development; a time where they are starting school, settling into new environments and making new relationships."

She added: “It is irresponsible and unethical to put children in this position and to reduce them to a number when they have been in existence for 48-60 months. The danger is that their score will see them grouped by ability from the very beginning.”

Madeleine Holt from the parents’ organisation Rescue our Schools, believes "parents are becoming far more aware that their children are being over tested".

She added: "The new test would steer the teaching of four-year-olds towards an excessive focus on numeracy and literacy. Parents wanted a broad curriculum for their children, not one that is organised around narrow tests."

More than a Score will now be taking its campaign to parents and schools in the UK.


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