Tuesday 15 October 2019

Pre-schoolers knock on Number 10’s door in protest against ‘tests’

The children presented a petition of 65,000 signatures against the Government’s plans.

By Laura Parnaby, Press Association

Three pre-school children knocked on the door of 10 Downing Street to ask the Government not to make them sit controversial new school “tests”.

Hundreds of people, including other four-year-olds, parents, teachers and MPs, marched from Parliament Square to protest against a 20-minute “baseline assessment” that children could soon be sitting within their first term at school.

The children presented a petition of 65,000 signatures against the Government’s plans, addressed to schools minister Nick Gibb.

Those who knocked on the Prime Minister’s door were Alex Harrison, five, in reception class at Westdene Primary, Brighton, Safa Patel, four, in reception class at Highlands Primary School, Redbridge, east London and Isla Tart, four, in the nursery class at Purwell Primary School in Hitchin, Hertfordshire.

Although campaigners say children will be subject to tests, the Department for Education (DfE) contends this is not the case because there is no pass mark and no reason for pupils to be prepared for it.

The DfE said they are an assessment of maths, language and literacy skills.

Children will give answers by pointing, moving objects and giving oral responses, and teachers will make note of their responses on an iPad.

They will be trialled by volunteering schools from this autumn with a view to being rolled out to all schools in England in 2020.

Sue Quirk, 68, a retired headteacher from Sidcup, south-east London, who was among those who marched on Thursday, said she was worried about the effect the test could have on her four young grandchildren.

She said: “Young children need to be able to play, they need to be able to express themselves. Taking them out to do tests instead is morally wrong.”

Parents, teachers, heads and education experts were led by action group More Than A Score from Parliament Square in Westminster, waving flags and chanting “we are small, we are four, we are more than just a score”.

Labour MPs Jack Dromey, Tracy Brabin and Peter Kyle were among those marching with the group, which is against all standardised tests.

Some 96% of primary school leaders are against the new tests, and almost three quarters do not think four-year-olds can be reliably tested, according to a 2019 YouGov survey carried out for the protest group.

Elaine Bennett, an early years teacher from Essex and More Than A Score spokeswoman, said: “This assessment regime has nothing to do with providing a quality education and everything to do with a system obsessed with league tables and turning children into data points as soon as they start school.

“Like SATs, the baseline tests will bring extra workload for teachers as well as stress for children right at the start of their school experience when settling in happily and confidently should have first priority.”

The British Educational Research Association, a charity encouraging educational improvement, has described the tests as “flawed, unjustified and totally unfit for purpose”.

A DfE spokesman said: “Carried out in the right way, children should not even be aware an assessment is taking place.

“It will simply provide a vital starting point to measure how well primary schools are doing to make sure all children reach their potential.”

He added: “It is just an opportunity for teachers to gauge exactly what level a child is at when they arrive.

“The current assessment of schools doesn’t take this into account.”

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