'Reception teachers uniquely understand their pupils – and no pointless paperwork can help with this insight'

17th August 2016 at 16:36
Reception tests
They don’t need a box-ticking exercise forced on them by ministers to tell them how the kids in their care are developing

As we enjoy and appreciate the summer holidays it reassuring to know our leaders at the Department of Education can still wind us up. They have that ability to confound and annoy us even if we are feeling a little more relaxed than normal.

“Having looked carefully” at “particular issues teachers have raised”, they have decided we must carry on with the Early Years Foundation stage profile in reception. This, you will remember, was the box-ticking exercise scrapped ahead of plans to introduce a baseline test: the test that was in turn scrapped April because there was no comparability between the three providers chosen to administer the test.

I, for one, was happy with the scrapping of the profile, not because I don't think there should be a recognition of a child's skill set on entry to school, more because of the time dedicated to create and fill in the paperwork.

What we saw was teachers and support staff consumed by endless observations, iPad in hand waiting to capture those moments when one of their pupils magically jumped over one hurdle or another. At which point the teachers were obliged to progress to endless form filling, box ticking and, if you were really lucky, moderation from your local authority.

And for what? Basically to find out what all good reception teachers already know.

I sometimes wonder if ministers understand that reception teachers are unique. The best of the best, in my humble opinion.

They deal with so many parenting issues even before they start ensuring the foundations are laid for a successful school career. They have emotional and behavioural issues to deal with and quite often there is a phenomenal effort required just to get a child into the classroom.

Seldom do we hear a reception teacher complain. Why? Mainly because they rarely come out of their classrooms, playtimes are non-existent and lunchtimes too are consumed by their children's needs.

These teachers therefore know their children intimately and very quickly. They do not need to spend weeks or months filling in paperwork.

What the government should have done when they 'talked to teachers', is to recognise the range of issues children present with when starting school: the soiling issues, the speech issues, behaviour issues.

These are the true issues our reception teams will face at the beginning of term. Guess what? They don't need a profile to tell them.

Colin Harris is headteacher of Warren Park Primary School in Havant, Hampshire 

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