Baseline assessment can be fun, teachers and parents learned recently at the British Dyslexia Computer Conference held in the University of Guildford. Children aged four and five, who this summer tested a new computer-based screening system scheduled for introduction with national testing in September 1997, enjoyed themselves so much they didn't want to stop, writes Sue Palmer.
The new system comes from Dr Chris Singleton and his team at Hull University who developed the CoPS1 software for early identification of dyslexia. It is now in use in about 500 schools across the UK. Feedback from teachers using CoPS1 alerted Chris Singleton to the potential of computers for general baseline assessment. "Teachers could see that children enjoyed working on the computer. The information they got was objective and reliable, it freed them from loads of paperwork."
It so happened that the resulting program - named CoPS1+ - was completed just as Gillian Shepherd announced government proposals for baseline assessment of all children upon school entry.
Paul Cann, director of the British Dyslexia Association, stressed the importance of forging a link between baseline assessment and the early identification of dyslexia and other learning difficulties. The sooner teachers and parents are aware that a child may have a weakness in particular cognitive areas, the sooner appropriate support can be provided.
Since the tests cover ability levels of up to eight and a half years, the software should also be useful in assessing children's progress throughout early primary, covering the first three stages of the Special Needs Code of Practice.
Chris Singleton believes the "fun" element makes it a particularly effective way to test five-year-olds. "The fact that children were giving up their time, and enjoyed themselves so much they didn't want to leave, speaks for itself. "
CoPs1+ available from January 1997 from Chameleon Educational Systems, Fiskerton Manor, Fiskerton, Southwell, Notts, NG25 OUH. Tel: 01636 830980