Article 4 out of 18
Dr Richard House, Co-founder of Early Childhood Action, education campaigner, trained Steiner Kindergarten and class teacher
Department for Education, Government
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From 2016, all primary schools in England will have to test children when they start school at the age of four. High-achieving schools will be able to opt out of the testing from 2023 and will be judged on Year 6 attainment. Critics of the policy claim it could lead to more pressure to ‘schoolify’ Reception Year which is mainly play-based learning currently and will place undue stress on teachers.
There is also the concern that schools will feel forced to teach to the test and that it will narrow the curriculum.
Dr Richard House, a chartered psychologist, trained Steiner Kindergarten and class teacher and former senior lecturer in Early Childhood and Psychology at the Universities of Winchester and Roehampton, would like to see all teachers in England boycotting the tests.
Last year, the NUT (National Union of Teachers) voted unanimously to 'investigate the possibility of a mass campaign of principled non-compliance with any policies that erode children’s right to play in the early years’.
Dr House said: “Baseline assessment has nothing whatsoever to do with children’s best interests, and everything to do with a Government determined to ‘make children ready’ for school (rather than vice versa), and at ever-earlier, developmentally premature ages.
“It was Winnicott who showed that forced compliance to inappropriate external demands is the death-knell of creativity – a disastrous outcome in any early-childhood environment. With practitioners, unions, academics and campaigners all joining the cacophony against baseline, the time has come for the EY sector to stand together and protect our children’s well-being from wilfully ‘iatrogenic’ policy-making.”
The Government claims that a baseline assessment of children’s literacy and numeracy as soon as they start school will enable their progress through the school to be measured better.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The reception baselines have been evaluated by the Standards and Testing Agency and the evaluation process involves independent early years experts.
“The reception baselines use a variety of approaches to assessment, for example children sitting one-to-one with a teacher and answering some questions, and schools will be able to choose the approach that most closely aligns with their school practice.”
The policy is being backed by Russell Hobby, chief executive of the NAHT (National Association of Head Teachers) as he “firmly believes that the performance of schools should be measured in terms of progress” and says: “In order to measure progress you need a baseline”.
However he added that he would like to see assessment “age-adjusted” to take account of the differences between summer born and winter born children.
He would also like to see the early years profile, the phonics screening check and the key stage one SATs made non-statutory when baseline testing is introduced.