Regular readers will know that I plan to home school my daughters, and that I already do regular play learning activities with them. Regular readers will also know that I totally believe we need to stick our noses into other people’s business when it comes to looking out for the children who are peers of our own children, the dentist, the neighbour, the colleague, of our own children.
Source: Unknown. Let me know if you own this picture!
Earlier this week a friend sent me a link on a proposal to introduce testing to school starters in the UK, looking at testing to see where they are at as they enter school.
While in principle it sounds like a great idea to establish a baseline and see where each child is at so that they can be helped in a way that is suitable to them, it was on reading the response from the National Campaign for Real Nursery Education that the whole thing left me feeling really uncomfortable.
First off, let me apologise for this: I haven’t spent time delving deeply into the proposal or the arguments for or against. There’s a vote THIS FRIDAY 11 October 2013 and parents who are against it need to make their voices heard NOW. As Headteacher JULIAN GRENIER says in the blogpost he wrote about it:
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.
And well, as a parent potentially affected by this, I only heard about it via a friend on Facebook!
The Consultation Paper can be found here, but here’s a description:
The consultation on primary assessment and accountability follows publication of the new national curriculum programmes of study, and the announcement that the current system of levels will be removed and not replaced.
We are seeking views on how attainment in national curriculum tests should be measured and reported, where we should take a baseline to measure pupils’ progress, and proposals for how schools should be held to account, including through floor standards.
You can view the whole response from the National Campaign for Real Nursery Education online, and it may be well worth doing so if you can’t quite wrap your head around what the problem with this testing is, but here are some of the key points that really stood out for me:
1) Testing at this level “takes a narrow view of achievement i.e. that only narrow test scores matter rather than more holistic development. Only a small number of things can be tested and not everything that can be tested is useful”.
2) Testing is unfair for reception aged children, because we all know what a difference six months can make to a child! You can hardly “compare children with peers who are nearly a year older and so have greater maturity and more life experience. This is a particular issue in the EYFS, and continues to affect children throughout their schooling.”
3) Will further disadvantage and damage the self-esteem of summer born children, children learning English as an additional language, children with special and additional needs. Ameli is super confident and already run rings around her peers and even some older. Testing her against a quieter, shyer child is very unfair on that child!
4) We (the NCRNE) strongly disagree with testing as it narrows the curriculum, encourages teaching to the test and does not address the child’s holistic development and progress.
At present, schools use teacher assessment to decide how far children have succeeded in mastering the KS1 programmes of study. Children’s individual progress should be regularly and rigorously assessed in consultation with their parents.
Teachers use varying kinds of formative assessment to record children’s progress towards milestones within the programmes of study and use nationally valid tests at the end of the programme of study to work out whether a child has reached the end of that programme and is ready for the next. The present system is logical and statistically valid. Any replacement must have a similar level of rigour.
So, what can we do?
Complete the 10 question in this Consultation Document. You don’t have to know everything or answer everything. You can leave as many questions as ‘not sure’ or ‘no response’ and just add your response to the questions you CAN answer, like:
6 Should we introduce a baseline check at the start of reception?
7 Should we allow schools to choose from a range of commercially-available assessments?
(My personal response to this based on 7 years in the public sector is NO since when you’re tied to ‘preferred providers’ you are limited to what’s approved rather than what’s necessarily either best or cost effective!)
Answer the questions in the way you feel right, with regards to data sharing school reporting and so on, but answer the questions. Now is the time to do something, so you see the results when your child starts school!
P.S. Part of why this is a big deal for me is that I already believe that children in the UK start school way, way, way too early, and I’m not alone in that. There is a plethora of debate, discussion and some research on the negative effects of children starting school before six or even seven years old.