Proposed tests for four-year-old’s could lead to nursery children being coached

CREDIT: This story was first seen in The Independent

Some youngsters are already sent to private tutors on Saturdays to prepare for primary school tests – and the new assessment could make this coaching culture worse, academic suggests.

The Independent reports that the government’s plans to roll out a controversial assessment for four-year-olds could lead to nursery children being coached to ensure they are test-ready, education academics have warned.

Proposals for young children to be tested in the first few weeks of primary school have been condemned as “flawed, unjustified and wholly unfit for purpose” by a panel of assessment experts.

The report, from the British Educational Research Association (BERA), argues that using the baseline assessment – which will cost up to £10m – is “ethically and methodologically questionable”.

The government has said it will use the results of the test for four-and-five-years-olds to hold schools to account for the progress that children make between reception and Year 6.

But the panel of experts argue that testing young children at such an early stage would be “detrimental” to children, parents and teachers and the wider education system in England.

It could lead to a reduction in time spent on more rounded development work in nurseries, and parents may feel “under pressure to secure coaching” to get children the best results, it warns.

Gemma Moss, the chair of the panel and a former BERA president, told The Independent: “I think parents get confused because they think attainment data in the public domain is the equivalent of TripAdvisor. It is a kind of assurance that ‘this is a good school and my kids here will do alright’.

“There is a kind of nervousness about performance in tests which then have backwashes.”

Professor Moss has heard of a privately run Saturday school in London that carries out phonics tuition to four-year-old children as they believe it is important preparation for school.

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The report also warns that children born in the summer, with English as an additional language and with special educational needs could be “unnecessarily labelled as low-ability” and these premature judgements risk becoming “self-fulfilling”.

The proposed test, which will last 20 minutes, is set to assess communication, language, literacy and mathematics skills. It will be piloted next year before being rolled out in 2020.

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