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NO LET UP IN EARLY YEARS DEBATE

At the end of the Reception year, teachers will have to complete a profile for each pupil showing their progress on 13 nine point scales.

These targets make up the national curriculum for children under five. “From the beginning of the autumn term, teachers, nursery staff, childminders and anyone looking after young children in a formal setting will, by law, have to try to teach the new programme and measure to what extent their charges have mastered the targets,” writes Sian Griffiths in The Sunday Times.

This is not the first time young children have been subjected to formal tests. Dr Christine Merrell of the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring at Durham University is a firm believer that assessments, such as the centre’s own performance indicators in primary schools - PIPS, are easy to administer and are enjoyed by the children. However, she feels that the new government profiles, which must be administered by the recording of observations of what children are doing in their every day activities, are deeply flawed. Quoted in the Times Educational Supplement she comments: “We have grave concerns about the way the EYFS is proposing to assess young children to find out what they can do.”

Sharing the excitement of new experiences may be coloured by the constant spectre of the “need for evidence”


There are others that disagree strongly with Dr Merrell’s faith in a computer assessment, believing that her solution is no better than the government’s. They complain that these types of tests are too narrow and too dependent on a child’s performance on a single occasion. But there is a growing body of opinion which believes that any kind of assessment of such young children is damaging the quality the education provision for early years.

“If too much emphasis is laid on assessment, teachers begin teaching to the targets.” Sharing the excitement of new experiences may then be coloured by the constant spectre of the “need for evidence,” says Diana Watkins, Chairman of IAPS and a trained Early Years Inspector. This must be music to the ears of Michael Morpurgo, the former Children’s Laureate, grandfather of seven and a one time teacher. He is vociferous in his condemnation of the government’s plans.

He told The Sunday Times: “Very young children must have the freedom to enjoy themselves. Playing, exploring and learning how to make friends should be the centre of their world,” he told reporter Sian Griffiths, “little ones learn best when free from pressures, targets and tests.” Are classroom assistants a good substitute for trained teachers? Artwork 17/9/08 09:17 Page 4