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Assessment of infants 'not linked to setting'

LAST WEEK'S national newspaper headlines on baseline assessment for children starting school may have left teachers with the impression that the initiative would play a key part in grouping children according to their ability and that this was part of the Government's motivation in introducing the scheme.

The quotes attributed to me did not support those headlines. In fact, at the press briefing I made it clear I saw no direct relationship between baseline assessment and setting or streaming and that I did not believe the assessments were the vehicle to achieve more setting.

Baseline assessment is about teachers assessing strengths and weaknesses when children start school, identifying how far they have developed in areas such as language, literacy, numeracy skills and personal and social development.

By knowing those strengths and weaknesses within weeks of children starting school, teachers can make sure they are teaching their pupils well in literacy, numeracy and other subjects I am sure teachers will find that assessing their new primary school pupils will provide an invaluable new tool and a firm foundation on which to build a sound education. In every case, I know, theses assessments will be simply building on the foundations of existing good advice.

This year, Pounds 9.4 million has been made available from the Standards Fund for baseline assessment. The money will be used for equipment and also for supply teachers support to ensure individual assessments can be carried out with minimum disruption to the rest of the class.

I particularly want to emphasise the scope which these assessments will offer in encouraging parents to get involved with their children's school career at the earliest possible opportunity. Teachers will be able to offer parents a copy of the results of their child's assessment over a meeting - encouraging the all-important dialogue between home and school.

Charles Clarke MP

Under-Secretary of State for School Standards Department for Education and Employment Sanctuary Buildings, Great Smith Street London SW1

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