Friday, July 19, 2013

Let My Three-Year-Old Play – Not Sit Exams

by Schools Improvement Net:

Jane Merrick in the Independent says “it is because I want children to enjoy their education that I am alarmed at the Government’s plans to start formal testing at five - or even earlier” …

… The proposals, unveiled by Nick Clegg and David Laws, the Schools minister, and presumably supported by Michael Gove, will formalise across England testing at key stage one, with the possibility for four-year-olds to also be brought under the testing regime.

The consultation document says a test could be introduced at reception - covering four to five-year-olds - within two to six weeks of them arriving.

To spell it out, that is a national test for a child barely a month after they have entered the education system for the first time. Before they have found their own coat peg, they will undergo a test.

The Deputy Prime Minister, who has a way of conjuring up odd soundbites, says his plans are not the equivalent of putting children through an “exam sausage factory”, and that the tests at the start of a child’s education are to create a baseline that their individual progress can be measured against.

But there is already a baseline method, through the Early Years Foundation Stage profile, which teachers create through observation during reception year. It is clearly important for this to be in place, to ensure that a pupil is making good progress.

But a snap test on a given day might not get the result that reflected that child’s ability. One day, he or she could be focused and attentive, and sail through a test. The next day, the child could be distracted and simply want to engage in diversionary tactics, sorry, play.

That’s what four-year-olds are like, you see. Mr Clegg should know this, his youngest child is four …

I can understand the reasoning behind these plans. I understand that Mr Clegg and Mr Laws are passionate about ensuring the most disadvantaged pupils receive the best education.

So their announcement yesterday of extra funding for the pupil premium, an excellent policy developed by the Liberal Democrats in opposition, from £900 for each poor child to £1,300 by the next election, is laudable.

The plan, also floated yesterday, for ranking 11-year-olds on a national scale, with the results available only to pupils and teachers, sounds a reasonable way to ensure struggling children do not slip through the net as they pass from primary to secondary education.

It is not that the tests for four and five-year-olds themselves will be arduous - it is suggested that a pupil will have to identify a carrot on a screen and count how many items there are on a page.

It is the existence of a rigid test at four and five that I find unsettling. I am afraid it does sound like an “exam sausage factory”.

Primary school children are already overburdened with homework, daily in some cases. To add more tests at such a young age will not create the kind of environment that stimulates interest in learning.

It will only impose more rigidity that makes children resent school. Let them enjoy their education, but understand that youngsters need their diversionary tactics too.

More at:  Let my three-year-old play – not sit exams

Jane Merrick seems more concerned with the principal rather than the proposed practice of the possible new reception tests - even saying she understands the reasoning behind them. 

Is there any reason, in reality, why the tests will necessarily make children more likely to resent school, as she suggests? Let us know what you think …

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