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117 ways to waste time?

Teachers say new assessment process for early years is just 'pointless ticking boxes'. Helen Ward reports

A POINTLESS assessment that will only increase workload, is how most nursery teachers see the foundation stage profile, a National Union of Teachers' poll has found.

Warwick University surveyed 803 foundation and infant teachers in March 2003 for the union. Only a quarter of respondents thought the profile would be useful in their work with pupils.

More than one in 10 felt the assessment was "not at all manageable" and 38 per cent thought it was not very manageable.

Almost three-quarters of teachers said the profile would increase their workload significantly in the short-term.

To complete a foundation stage profile, a teacher must assess every child against 117 measures.

One respondent said: "It is a pointless case of ticking boxes."

The profile was introduced in January 2003 as a single national assessment scheme to go with the early-years curriculum.

It was meant to replace one of the 90 approved baseline assessment schemes.

These assessments were carried out within a few weeks of a child entering nursery.

Two-thirds of those questioned had also continued with a baseline assessment, mostly to gain information about pupils and to help planning.

Dr Sean Neill, who conducted the survey, wrote: "The profile appears to have forfeited much of the support it might have otherwise gained from teachers by its introduction at what they see as a point too late in the year, with information and training which they often see as inadequate.

John Bangs, head of education at the NUT, said: "This is a highly bureaucratic system which attempts to ride two horses, to provide information for value-added scores and to be diagnostic. It cannot do both."

But early-years experts, including Professor Tina Bruce, of London Metropolitan University, Professor Chris Pascal, of the Centre for Research in Early Childhood, and Professor Kathy Sylva, of the University of Oxford, have previously defended the foundation profile, saying it values play and will take only 35 minutes to complete per child.

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