'Christmas is cancelled'

Sats fever reaches overkill proportions as foundation stage tests at four are introduced.

ON MONDAY, the first pupils to have had the foundation stage curriculum at age four will be sitting their science tests.

The foundation stage curriculum was introduced to "ensure the best start for every child". It introduced six areas of learning, including communication, language and literacy, and the idea of stepping stones towards early learning goals.

The curriculum is popular as a child-centred way of teaching very young children. But an impact on results has yet to be seen.

By the end of Year 2, pupils who had the foundation stage curriculum had exactly the same reading scores as pupils the previous year and the year before that.

And 18 months ago, when headteachers had to predict which of their then Year 5 children would reach level 4 this summer, they estimated that 79 per cent would reach the level in English - the same proportion as last year and the year before that.

If their predictions prove correct, it would mean the Government would fall short of its target of 85 per cent of pupils reaching level 4 in both subjects by 2006 and for this to be sustained until 2008.

So, with national targets seemingly out of reach, there is renewed pressure to reform the testing system.

Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "The high stakes testing regime is killing the curriculum.

It is putting young children under far too much stress and anxiety, and is effectively ruining Year 6.

"Schools are spending an inordinate amount of time rehearsing for Year 6 Sats. Year 6 is the last year of primary and it should be the best. Instead there are rumours of schools even cancelling Christmas because it gets in the way of Sats preparation."

The TES revealed last month that primaries devote 44 per cent of teaching time in the spring term to test preparation. One in three schools also offers after-hours or lunchtime booster classes.

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