A diet of assessment? Not good for growth

You have to guard against weighing the kid all the time," says Jane Donati, "or it never gets fat." Mrs Donati, headteacher of Hillborough nursery and infants school in Luton, is talking about goats, but her warning applies to children.

"You can't spend all your time assessing and no time teaching because there would be nothing to assess."

Her school, praised by Ofsted for "exemplary assessment procedures", uses the foundation-stage profile (because we have to, says Mrs Donati) but does not stop there. Every half term the teachers formally assess all the children. This is done "off our own bat because we like to see them making progress in each area and, if they are not, we try to find out why".

We do use formal pieces of work, says Mrs Donati. The reception class has just done a writing exercise. Some children have just written a couple of words, but others can do much more.

This doesn't bother them, she says. "It's not like we're getting them into the hall, sitting them in rows and expecting them to be quiet."

Mrs Donati is not impressed with the profile and its 117 criteria - the six areas of learning contain 13 "scales" each with nine "statements".

"The criteria are time-wasting and do not feed into key stage 1 easily. It is in everyone's interests that we get the right information from year to year.

"The whole point of assessment is that you can't just assess the children and then leave it.

"You have to think about what you use the information for and, obviously, we use it to plan the next step for a child." Mrs Donati also feels that her assessments give her ammunition.

"If someone wants to hold me to account I can show them, 'Look, this is where these children began, and this is where they were every half term'.

If parents and teachers are happy with the children's progress, I think other people ought to be as well."

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