Anger over scheme to test four-year-olds at school

File photo dated 08/02/12 of a primary school child writing

File photo dated 08/02/12 of a primary school child writing - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Parents teachers and unions have hit out at controversial government plans to introduce baseline testing for four-year-olds in schools.

Those against the plans came together on Sunday at a picnic in Victoria Park to raise awareness about the scheme.

From September, children as young as four will find themselves tested when they arrive at most state-funded Hackney schools for the first time.

These test scores will be used as a benchmark to measure their progress over time.

But educational professionals have labelled the tests unreliable, statistically invalid and fear they will disrupt the transition from home to school life and will be harmful to the development of children at a key point in their education.

Jamie Duff, Hackney National Union of Teachers (NUT) said: “Testing four year olds is too much too soon. Constantly testing children does not improve their education. This test will result in a narrowing of the curriculum and is part of the government’s plan to reduce educational development to rising test scores.

“It is more to do with creating an accountability culture than improving the education of young children. The anger and concern felt by teachers means that our members are seriously considering boycotting these damaging and needless tests.”

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Though the test is considered optional, there is concern headteachers will face pressure to adopt them in order to avoid schools considered to be “failing” if 85 per cent of pupils do not meet the expected level at the end of Key Stage Two.

A Department for Education spokesman said 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.

He added: “As part of our drive to achieve real social justice and ensure children are extended the same opportunities, regardless of their background, we want to see all children leaving primary school with a good standard of reading, writing and maths - and teachers agree that measuring progress is the best way to ensure primary schools are doing this.

“Most schools already do some form of assessment when children start in reception, so they already know what care and attention the child needs.

“Primary checks have not been introduced to track the progress of individual pupils – but to measure the starting point of them all.”