Observation analysis set to replace formal tests for year one pupils

A consultancy in Huddersfield called Early Excellence recently won a competition to supply the Department of Education (DfE) with a new baseline assessment. The new test-free approach looks into the children’s observations, interactions and activities and uses this knowledge to make a series of judgements about each child based on a clear set of assessment criteria.

Early Excellence have signed up more than 11,000 of England’s 16,700 primary schools. Children entering reception class in September 2015 are likely to be assessed using the new system, recording each child’s literacy and numeracy skills within a few weeks of their starting school. Schools that have opted out of the new assessment will have their performance judged on pass rates for later exam results that only around 10 per cent of schools would meet.

Jan Dubiel, Early Excellence’s national development manager said:“We developed an assessment that isn’t a test, the child isn’t aware that they are ever being assessed, it fits in with everyday practice and it’s based on a practitioner’s professional judgement of how you understand a child as a learner. We are absolutely not talking about formal testing here.”

Karen Lomas, the headteacher of Savile Park primary school in Halifax, said her school signed up with Early Excellence after taking part in a trial.“For us it was a very positive thing. It’s done through observation and through normal practice within a classroom observing children. Children will not be aware that they are sitting a test, because they are not,”

The new approach has been criticised by some teaching unions as a “test too far”, with the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Head Teachers strongly opposing the new method. This year’s NUT annual conference in Harrogate passed a motion calling for a possible boycott, with delegates also calling for strike action in 2016 if the move went ahead.

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