Professor Ted Wragg, of Exeter University, has joined the teacher unions in condemning the bureaucracy involved in monitoring the foundation stage, which involves assessing every child against 117 criteria.
However, an impressive array of early-years experts have sprung to the defence of the foundation stage "profile". In a letter to The TES this week the 13 early-years academics, nursery heads and inspectors say that the profile is inclusive, embraces diversity and is based on "best practice" in record-keeping.
"Compared with forms of assessment at later stages in the system, this is the most principled and best so far," they say.
Documents for the assessment profile were sent to schools this week. Staff must be trained and ready to use the new system by June. Children's scores will be collected by the Department for Education and Skills in the autumn.
David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers, said his union supported the foundation stage profile which relies heavily upon teacher assessment. But he has written to Education Secretary Charles Clarke to protest that schools have too little information on the profile and will need more time to implement it.
Professor Ted Wragg said: "The Government talks about reducing bureaucracy but when is it going to start? If I were doing it the first thing I would do is bin these 117-item profiles, that is 3,510 tick boxes for a whole class."
The National Union of Teachers has told its members not to undertake unnecessary work for the profile which shows how children cope in six areas of learning, such as personal development, by the end of their reception year.
It replaces the baseline assessment which was carried out when a child entered reception. A Qualifications and Curriculum Authority spokesman said the draft materials for the foundation stage had been posted on its website since June. He said the new system would not require more work than the baseline assessment it replaces.