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Plans for mandatory testing all five-year-olds at beginning of reception year take a giant step forward

Proposals to test all children when they begin school at age four or five, appear to be about to get the green light.

Although the consultation into the idea of a "baseline test" for all new entrants to reception year only ended on Friday, Liz Truss, the education minister responsible for early years, heavily hinted today that the idea was in favour in the Department for Education. It is likely the assessments will be in English and maths.

Speaking at the Commons Education Select Committee, Truss mentioned the the tests on several occasions.

The idea behind them is that they should be used to set a baseline against which all progress in primaries can be measured.

The idea of a baseline check at age five was put forward as part of an overhaul of assessment and accountability in primary schools. The consultation adds that a baseline at the start of reception could “provide valuable national information on the effectiveness of different types of early years provision”.

But this afternoon Truss went further. When asked about how the government would hold local authorities to account for making children school-ready, she replied: “This is why we are consulting on baseline testing…In future when we have a two-and-a-half year check, that is due in 2015, and a check in place at age five, we will be able to see how children are progressing in particular local authority areas.”

The original consultation was not widely welcomed. A recent letter in the Telegraph from early education experts said the suggestion was part of moves to prescribe ever earlier formal learning and said this could cause 'profound damage' to the self-image and learning dispositions of a generation.

The consultation document asks for opinions on introducing a statutory baseline check at the start of reception (the school year in which children turn five) and make the current assessment carried out at the end of the year optional.

The current early years foundation stage (EYFS) profile, which was overhauled this year, asks teachers to assess 17 different aspects of child development including ‘making relationships’ and ‘being imaginative’ alongside ‘reading’, ‘writing’ and ‘numbers’.

The National Union of Teachers has said that the idea of reintroducing a baseline check shows ‘a ‘fundamental lack of understanding about early years and primary education’ and points out that the EYFS profile is intended as a holistic and supportive assessment – while the baseline check appears to envisage a ‘worryingly narrow’ check of just English and mathematics skills.

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