Parents plan legal action over new tests for four-year-olds

On Thursday next week Kay Tart, from Hitchin in Hertfordshire, will help her daughter Isla dress in the uniform she will wear when she starts school in September. She will make sure the four-year-old’s favourite book and soft toy are in her backpack, but they won’t be heading to school. They will be joining other parents and children on the “march of the four-year-olds” to 10 Downing Street, where Isla will get her first taste of democracy. The Guardian reports.

The children will hand in a 65,000- signature petition against the new “baseline” tests the government plans for children aged four and five. They will be piloted at hundreds of schools in September ready for their introduction England-wide at the start of the new school year in 2020.

The parents fear the tests in the first six weeks of their children starting school in reception class will disrupt the important settling-in period. The results will be unreliable, they say, and the emphasis on maths and literacy in the reception baseline assessment (RBA), rather than overall child development, will push schools towards a narrower curriculum. The Department for Education has refused to publish sample questions, which are on maths and literacy and likely to involve counting, recognising letters and vocabulary.

The tests of maths and literacy, which are costing £9.8m over two years to develop, are meant to provide a “baseline” so that children’s progress can be measured seven years later at the age of 11 in order to judge schools’ effectiveness and hold them to account. Children will be taken out of class one by one to sit the 20-minute test on a tablet operated by the teacher, who will mark questions “Yes” or “No”. An algorithm will make the questions easier or harder until it reaches the level at which the children get more wrong than right.

The parents say their children are too young to be tested on numeracy and literacy. “I’ve got a four-year-old, and you can ask them what’s one plus one and they might say two, or they might say bananas,” says Vicky Trainer from Brighton.

The march is being organised by the campaign group More Than a Score, a coalition of parents and educationists. Tart, who is a member of the group, has five children aged two to nine and says she knows how important the first weeks of reception class are for building a child’s confidence and relationships with the teacher and other pupils.

“It horrifies me they are testing and labelling children from such a young age. It’s ludicrous, not least because the tests won’t achieve any reliable results even if they can get four-year-olds to maintain focus for that long,” says Tart, who worked for a social enterprise helping people into work before starting her family.

Read the full article Parents plan legal action over new tests for four-year-olds

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