Sunday 6 October 2013

The DFE's plans for assessment are a grave threat to good early years practice - but has anyone noticed?

Responding to DFE consultations isn't something educators or parents do often enough - on the one hand, it's important we have our say, but on the other hand most of the consultation period always seems to be the summer holidays. So - if you work in a school or early years setting - you're probably tired in July, you might be on holiday in August, then September it's really busy again and the next thing you notice that the consultation period has ended. Likewise, if you're a parent it's hardly the best time to collect your thoughts and write a response.

So, I'd like to introduce a little stutter into that story and urge everyone to respond to the current DFE consultation - Primary assessment and accountability under the new national curriculum. The consultation closes on Friday 11th October, and from my limited involvement in such matters I can assure you that the number and the tone of responses really matters.

This should really worry anyone who might be concerned about the idea that every child should be subjected to a "baseline assessment" aged four, on entry to reception. There are numerous reasons why this is a foolish proposition. Let's just stick with a few of the big ones. (1) Children in England seem to be subjected to more nationally-set tests than children anywhere else in the world. Does it seem like a good idea to add another one? (2) Is it really likely that a child trying to get used to everything at "big school", is going to demonstrate their full potential in a test in their first weeks? (3) Does the research on early learning suggest that there is any sort of test which is a reliable indicator of a child's development at four?

I've been sent a very powerful response by an expert on assessment in the early years [PDF]. Additionally, the response from the National Campaign for Real Nursery Education (NCRNE) makes many telling points [PDF]. If you're short of time, you may find they give you some useful shortcuts.

Please don't ignore this consultation. Otherwise, the next thing you know we will have mandatory national tests for four year olds on entry to reception classes.

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