Testing of under-fives goes ahead despite teaching union objections

The Department for Education is to press ahead with its latest attempt to assess the abilities of four- and five-year-old children in their first weeks of full-time schooling, despite strong opposition from teaching unions. The Guardian reports

The DfE is calling for primary schools in England to volunteer for its new reception baseline assessment as part of a pilot before the new measure is introduced from autumn 2020.

The new assessments will be designed to gauge the levels of ability that children exhibit in language, communication, basic literacy and maths at the start of their reception year, when most children begin formal schooling aged four.

“The reception baseline assessment is a hugely important step forward in ensuring that we can fairly and accurately measure how effectively schools are helping children to progress while helping to reduce the burden of assessment for teachers,” said Nick Gibb, the schools minister, in announcing the opening of applications to take part in the pilot.

The National Education Union – the largest union operating in primary schools in England – voted overwhelmingly last year to boycott any pilot scheme run by the DfE. Delegates at the NEU’s national conference were told the proposed assessments were “expensive, damaging and immoral”.

But policymakers argue that the current measures fail to recognise the important progress that schools make with pupils between reception and year two, and do not show the different starting point from which pupils begin their education.

According to the DfE, the new tests will take about 20 minutes to carry out and can be administered at any time in the first six weeks of children starting reception class. The assessments will not carry any pass or fail mark and teachers will only receive brief statements showing them how pupils performed.

Read more Testing of under-fives goes ahead despite teaching union objections

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