Teachers propose boycott of Reception baseline tests

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The National Union of Teachers has moved to block Government plans to introduce new baseline assessments for children at the start of Reception.

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Delegates at the teaching union’s Easter conference voted unanimously to support a motion by the NUT’s executive to consider boycotting the tests due to start in 2016.

The Government wants to start formally assessing children from the age of four as a starting point for measuring children’s progress throughout primary school.

Conference voted in favour of motion 47 to 'investigate the possibility of a mass campaign of principled non-compliance with any policies that erode children’s right to play in the early years’.

Commenting after the debate, NUT general secretary Christine Blower said, ‘The emphasis on formal learning and assessment is putting undue pressure on our youngest pupils. 

‘Children and young people do not develop at the same rate and this approach takes no account of either summer born children or those with special educational needs. A play-based curriculum is what is needed – not unnecessary tests, which children in their earliest years of education might “fail”, giving them a negative message in the earliest years of schooling.  

‘We need to be inspiring young children, not making them afraid or bored through a task orientated curriculum which simply stultifies the learning process.

‘Being confident, independent and curious is as important as cognitive and academic skills and must be defined in the light of children’s diverse abilities.’

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said, ‘We are very pleased to hear that the NUT shares our concerns about the introduction of reception baseline testing.

‘The fact that the NUT feels it may have no other choice but to boycott these assessments shows what little faith there is in the Government’s ability to engage with and listen to the views of sector professionals – let’s not forget that only a third of those who responded to the consultation on these plans actually supported them.

‘We will continue to support the excellent work of the Too Much, Too Soon campaign in challenging these ill-thought-out proposals.

The Government must start engaging with parents and educational professionals to work out the best way of ensuring that children are adequately supported at the start of – and throughout – their educational journey.’

A DfE spokesperson said, ‘We are working with teachers to raise the bar to improve standards in primary schools and introduce a proper measure of progress from when children start school to age 11.

‘Under our proposals to improve primary accountability, schools will be held to account either for ensuring all children make sufficient progress from reception to the end of primary school, or for ensuring at least 85 per cent achieve the expected level in reading, writing and maths.

‘We want to see all children leaving primary school with a good standard of reading, writing and maths so that they can thrive at secondary school.’