Ins and outs of IELS

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Long-awaited details of 'Baby PISA' have not been met with much acclaim, says Liz Roberts


Congratulations to Carolyn Silberfeld, chair of the Early Childhood Studies Degrees Network, for seizing the initiative over  the International Early Learning and Child Well-Being Study – or Baby PISA.

This OECD international comparison research, which involves testing five-year-olds, has crept into being, shrouded in apparent secrecy and with no meaningful early years sector consultation or debate. The field trial has already taken place, with the main study confirmed for this autumn.

Carolyn took it upon herself to organise an event, persuading the IELS project leads from DfE and NFER to present full details of what is happening (and well done to them, too, for turning up when substantial criticism was inevitable).

It is very useful to learn about the study, and reassuring to hear of the thought that has gone into the assessment process, that the chosen children said made them ‘feel special’.

In the end, however, this is yet another assessment to add to the EYFS Profile, the Reception Baseline and the phonics screening check in children’s first couple of years in school.

And for what? The DfE says it wants internationally comparable evidence on early learning and to learn from other countries. Yet only England, the US and Estonia have signed up, IELS being rejected by New Zealand and Germany among others. As Professor Peter Moss argued, this is a wasted opportunity to build on the OECD’s original Starting Strong project, ‘crude, uninformative and potentially damaging’ in its push towards standardisation and narrowing of early childhood education (see ‘“Baby PISA” to go ahead in autumn’, online).
Another few million pounds that could be spent better, another league table, and another set of data of dubious value.

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