Assessments of primary children

Jess Brown
Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Professionals outline what they want from the government's consultation on assessing pupils in reception.

The future of primary assessment is still uncertain. Picture: Lucie Carlier
The future of primary assessment is still uncertain. Picture: Lucie Carlier

The future of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) profile had been in doubt since the government announced in early 2016 plans to introduce a baseline assessment of all primary school pupils in reception.

These requirements have now been scrapped, but the future of primary assessment is still uncertain.

Education Secretary Justine Greening announced last month that existing early years learning standards will remain in place for 2017/18, with the Department for Education launching a consultation in the new year on the assessment of primary-age pupils.

She has said the consultation will examine "the best starting point to measure the progress children make in primary school, and the role and operation of teacher assessment".

Liz Bayram, chief executive, Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (Pacey)

Bayram says baseline assessments do not support children and hopes the government will realise the need to have a wider understanding of a child's progress.

"With a review of primary assessment on the horizon, we will continue to argue for the importance of assessing children's physical, social and emotional development as well as educational attainment in any future assessment.

"We strongly believe that baseline assessments do nothing to support children at this key stage in their life, but instead are focused on monitoring school performance.

"The transition from an early years setting to school can be an anxious time and teachers should be allowed to concentrate on settling children into full-time education rather than having their attention diverted by these tests.

"We hope that the government consultation will address the need to build a rounded profile of each child's abilities based on observation over time - rather than giving children a single numerical score - which the baseline assessment does."

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive, National Day Nurseries Association

Tanuku says the EYFS should stay in place.

"We urge the Secretary of State to put the EYFS profile on a statutory basis permanently. We were very concerned by the move for the profile to become non-statutory and pleased that it has been announced it will stay in place until at least 2017/18.

"The profile provides national data on children's outcomes at the end of their early years learning. If this data were no longer compiled, we wouldn't know what children have achieved by the time they reach school and be able to compare cohorts of children.

"As we said to the education select committee earlier this year, while we do not agree with measuring young children for the sake of it, we believe that the EYFS profile is proportionate given the significant public money invested in early learning.

"Having a consistent national measure is vital to drive progress towards the ambition for all children to achieve their expected outcomes."

Chris Keates, general secretary, NASUWT

The teachers' union wants the government to introduce an assessment that avoids the shortcomings of the baseline assessment.

"The controversy that followed the government's previous attempt to introduce a system of baseline assessment means that it is sensible that it has decided to pause and reflect on the best way forward.

"The degree of certainty provided by the government's announcement that the EYFS profile will continue until 2018 is welcome.

"It is clearly the case that measures of school performance based on progress are fairer than those based on attainment alone, and that such a system requires a form of meaningful assessment to be undertaken at, or near, the start of Key Stage 1.

"However, it will be essential for the government to work with all early years and primary stakeholders to develop an on-entry assessment that is valid, reliable, manageable for teachers and that avoids the shortcomings identified with some baseline assessments proposed previously."

Neil Leitch, chief executive, Pre-school Learning Alliance

Leitch says assessment in reception must consider that a child needs to adapt to his or her new environment.

"We welcome the news that the EYFS profile is to stay in place until 2018.

"However, we are concerned by the increasing lack of clarity from government about the purpose of primary assessment, particularly in the reception year.

"We recognise the importance of assessments in reception year that enable practitioners to monitor children's progress on an individual basis.

"However, we remain strongly opposed to the introduction of an assessment system that focuses on the formal testing of a very narrow set of skills, effectively lowers the age at which the EYFS is deemed to end and promotes the ‘schoolification' of the early years.

"It is imperative that the government recognises that in order to be beneficial to the child, these early assessments need to use strategies and approaches that not only complement the learning context, but also take account of young children's needs to adjust to a new environment.

"Following the consultation, we hope that the government listens to the expertise of the sector and implements a system which, rather than focusing on measuring and ranking schools, prioritises enabling practitioners to support the learning and development of young children."

EYFS TIMELINE

  • April 2012 Government publishes revised EYFS framework
  • January 2015 Petition against plans to introduce baseline assessments reaches more than 2,000 signatures
  • September 2015 Schools are able to use baseline assessments instead of the EYFS profile
  • April 2016 Government ditches plans to use reception baseline assessments to track progress
  • October 2016 Justine Greening announces that the EYFS will stay in place for 2017/18

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