The introduction of the new Reception baseline assessment and reforms to the early years teaching framework should be delayed "by at least a year" in light of the coronavirus crisis, campaigners have said.
It is "not in children's interest" to bring in new measures when learning has been "so disrupted" by school and nursery closures, according to the Early Education charity.
Beatrice Merrick, chief executive of Early Education, told Tes that introducing the new baseline assessment in September, as originally planned by the Department for Education, would "make life impossible for everybody".
Coronavirus: EYFS still applies 'in full', says DfE
She also called on the government to postpone reforms to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), which were due to be implemented by "early adopter" schools in the autumn, before becoming compulsory in September 2021.
Coronavirus: Will Reception baseline assessment be delayed?
Ms Merrick said: "If government were to be thinking of still introducing baseline in September, I just think that would be really problematic because…children [need] an extended transition.
"So to take teachers’ attention away from that transition and to spend a week or two just sitting down testing individual children in a way that they can’t actually use to plan their teaching would be really counter-productive and unfair on those children."
She added: "I think both the reforms to the EYFS, which there was talk of having early implementation in September, and the baseline – really both of those need to be pushed back at least a year.
"Not only because they are policies that ought to be rethought anyway, but because to try and do this in the autumn when people have just been through the disruption of Covid-19 will just make life impossible for everybody.
"It is not in children’s interest to be tested at a point where this has been so disrupted, and it’s not in children’s interest for the teachers to be distracted by so much change at the start of Reception, at a point when they just need to be settled and caught up and nurtured a bit."
Asked whether she expected the introduction of the baseline assessment and early EYFS reforms to go ahead as planned in September, Ms Merrick said: "We haven’t heard anything to the contrary, but again I suspect some of it might just depend on how long it takes until Covid is sort of done and dusted, and the DfE can actually turn its mind back to baseline, review of the EYFS and so on.
"And it may be that we get to a point where they go: 'Actually, at this point in the year, it is too late and we’ll wait a year,' or it may be that they are thinking: 'Oh it’ll be fine, we’ve got everything in place, we’ll plough ahead'.
"At the moment, we don’t even know if social distancing measures are relaxed over the summer…they might have to be reintroduced next winter, so it would be pointless having a baseline and then going into lockdown again."
Campaign group More Than A Score also called on the DfE to cancel the introduction of the baseline assessment "immediately".
Spokesperson Nancy Stewart said: "This will give peace of mind to teachers and heads as well as the hundreds of thousands of parents of four-year-olds who will be starting school in September.
"After a period of unprecedented disruption, the priority must be to give these small children a sound start at school.
"They will have missed a great deal of the necessary practical and emotional preparation including transition visits and, potentially, a whole term in nursery.
"The government's tests will be a huge distraction, especially in terms of the extra workload for teachers at a time when their main focus should be building relationships and giving children the opportunity to catch up on the many learning opportunities they will have missed."
The government has said the EYFS will still apply "in full" this summer, despite the coronavirus outbreak.
However, children finishing Reception this year will not be assessed against the early learning goals, which form the EYFS profile.
The DfE has been approached for comment.