SPECIAL REPORT: You have your say on new primary school tests for four and five-year-olds
New ‘baseline’ testing for four and five-year-olds at the start of the school year could put extra stress on youngsters - fear many parents.
This September, a number of schools in Lincolnshire have been invited to take part in a pilot for the new tests, with the scheme being rolled out nationally in 2020.
It is not known which schools will be taking part in the pilot as yet, but the National Education Union (NEU) has also expressed its own concern over the tests.
The Department for Education (DfE) says that a baseline test can be a good 'predictor' of children’s future attainment.
The tests will be carried out within the first six weeks of children starting school. They will last for around twenty minutes and focus on language, literacy and numeracy.
But when we posted the news of these fresh baseline tests on our Facebook page, it did not go down well with many readers.
Lynne Gurry posted: "Having worked in a school for 15 years, I've seen some children really suffer when it came to test time.
"I know we need to gauge what our children are learning and have some kind of bench mark, but there must be a less stressful way to do it."
Joanne Adcock posted: "Why give four and five-year-olds stress at such a young age. They will have plenty of tests with 11+ and SATs when they reach year six."
Shannon Mason posted: "As if starting primary school isn't stressful enough for four to five-year-olds. A complete change of setting, new teachers, new friends... let them be young and get used to being in school, let them enjoy their younger years in education and leave the tests/exams for when they are older!"
Tony Martin posted: "It's not the kids under pressure, it's everyone telling kids.
"In our day we used to come into a lesson and we were told we had a sheet to do.
"We did it, the papers were collected and we never heard about the test again.
"I'm sure all the data can be truly dissected from the test. The issue comes when people are trying to make kids results better. The world is full of this cobblers."
Ken Rustidge, Lincolnshire secretary for the National Education Union, who lives in Pinchbeck, said: "The message from Ken Jones, from the National Education Union, is that 'baseline tests will not only be unreliable and invalid, but threaten to do harm to young children’s education'.
"As a father of a six-year-old, I know he will always try his hardest but he will only do what he can."
The NEU also pointed to research that 'value-added scores cannot be causally attributed to school performance.'
"Socio-economic background is a much stronger influence on progress than any school effect," wrote Ken Jones, for the NEU.
Jo-Ann Tointon, from Spalding, has a four-year-old daughter and a six-year-old son.
Her daughter starts school in September. She said: "My opinion on it is it depends on what the assessment is used for. If it is a base mark to see what level the children are at, and to give individuality, that is fair enough, but if it is being used to assess the school, that would be different.
"In a class of 30 children, if the tests show what level they are at individually, then I am all for it, but as long as it is not being called a test to the children."
"As if starting primary school isn't stressful enough for four to five-year-olds. A complete change of setting, new teachers, new friends... let them be young and get used to being in school, let them enjoy their younger years in education and leave the tests/exams for when they are older!"
And MP for South Holland and the Deepings, Sir John Hayes, felt that the tests could be useful if they assess a child's attainment and allow for differentiation.
"Speaking as a dad, when my sons were young we would always get them to practice their times tables, for example," he said. "I think most diligent mums and dads do and I would be disappointed if my sons' school did not assess their levels.
"I think it has to be done with sensitivity and there has to be the support and resources available to the teachers as well."
Holly Barrett, an independent Education Consultant with B-education said: ''These new assessments are not for the benefit of the children as the results are not shared with the school or parents.
"The collected data is purely a form of progress measurement to hold the school accountable when the children leave in year six rather than as an educational tool to provide the school with the child's starting point."
The DfE says that the new assessment will enable it to create "school-level progress measures for primary schools which show the progress pupils make from reception until the end of key stage 2 (KS2).
"Unlike the current progress measure, this will give schools credit for the important work they do with their pupils between reception and year 2."
The DfE says it will publish measures for all-through primaries in the summer of 2027 for the first time.
This will be when those pupils who entered reception in autumn 2020 reach the end of KS2.
It says that the assessment will be age appropriate, last approximately 20 minutes and teachers will record the results on a laptop, computer or tablet.
It will not be used to label or track individual pupils. No numerical score will be shared, and the data will only be used at the end of year six to form the school-level progress measure.
However, the DfE says that teachers will receive a series of short, narrative statements that tell them how their pupils performed in the assessment at that time. These can be used to inform teaching within the first term.
The organisation, More than a Score, last week marched to number 10, Downing Street, to hand over a 69,917 signature petition against the tests.