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Ministers may jettison first-term assessment

MINISTERS are considering delaying the first assessment of primary children until the end of reception class when some will have been in school for a year.

Primaries have been required to assess children within the first term in reception for the past two years. The assessment can take place when children are four.

Academics believe an assessment at the end of the new foundation stage (from age three to five) would be more useful. Ministers are also considering reducing the number of approved schemes used by schools.

Professor Geoff Lindsay of Warwick University, who evaluated baseline assessment for the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, suggested there were difficulties comparing progress because there are 91 schemes.

"Teachers appear to be satisfied that the assessment provides them with information about the needs of the pupils in their class. However, if the purpose is also to compare progress between schools in different local authorites, that cannot be done with the existing range of schemes," he said.

His report is expected to say that most of the schemes lack evidence that they ae producing nationally reliable information about achievement.

Meanwhile an analysis of schools using Professor Peter Tymms of Durham University's assessment regime suggests reception pupils' progress varies hugely between schools. This scheme is used by 3,500 schools - 1.5 per cent of primaries.

Professor Tymms says children taught well in reception produce measurably better results in national tests for seven-year-olds. Between a quarter and a third of the difference in progress in reception is to do with the effectiveness of the teaching, he said.

Big differences were found between pupils' progress in different classes. It would appear that being part of reception class where a lot of progress is made has a long-term positive impact.

Other factors that influence success include the average ability of pupils in a class, said Professor Tymms. Classes with greater than average numbers of high achievers make greater progress.

"Teachers ought to be aware it is a more accurate predictor of the future results of those children who get high scores in the assessment," Professor Tymms said.

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