Five-year-olds' league tables are abandoned

4th March 2011 at 00:00
Westminster Government drops plans to publish school-by-school results after outcry

The plans to publish league tables of five-year-olds' assessment results in England have been abandoned after strong criticism from teaching unions and early-years experts.

The proposal was included in the Department for Education's business plan in November but has now been dropped in a U-turn by ministers. It would have seen school-by-school results of the early years foundation stage (EYFS) profile published for the first time.

The plan drew strong criticism that young children would be put under unfair pressure and that the tables would fail to reflect the quality of education provision.

A petition against the introduction of tables attracted almost 1,000 signatures, including former children's laureate Michael Rosen, childcare guru Penelope Leach and psychotherapist and author Susie Orbach.

Frances Laing, a parent and activist who launched the petition, hailed the U-turn, but voiced concern that the proposal may yet reappear after the Tickell review of early-years education is published in the spring.

"It is a testament to grass-roots activism, but I have left the league- table petition in place as an insurance policy," she said. "I'm not convinced that the Government won't try again."

The climbdown is one of a number of decisions which have gone into reverse following a public outcry: proposed cuts to funding for school sports partnerships and gifts of books were partially reprieved last year.

The EYFS profiles are summaries of assessments of how children are doing in 13 areas, including physical development, language and social skills. They have been collected since 2003, but only published at local authority and national level.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of heads' union NAHT, had condemned the plan as a "gimmick in the name of transparency". He said: "This change is very good news. We should all have very high expectations for early years, but measuring the stage by league tables is not the way to achieve high standards."

Wendy Scott, president of TACTYC, an association for early-years practitioners, also welcomed the change of direction as a "refreshing break-out of common sense".

"It goes back to the fact that the EYFS profiles are not fit for purpose; they were never designed to be used in that way and it is a relief they are not going to be," she said.

Margaret Morrissey, of the Parents Outloud campaign group, said she was "delighted" by the decision to drop the publication of results.

"It's as if the Government says, `We'll tell you what to do, but if you make enough fuss then we won't do it. If you don't, then we can whizz it in and say nobody complained'."

The plan to publish results came as the DfE also announced its plan to introduce a national reading test for six-year-olds. Individual school results for the reading test will not be published.

A DfE spokeswoman said: "We will not publish early years foundation stage profile data at school level. The draft transparency section of the DfE business plan suggested that achievements of children at the end of the EYFS might be published at school level, in addition to data already published on children's attainment at the end of the primary school phase.

"This is not the case and will be made clear in the final published version of the business plan."


Frances Lang, journalist and blogger: "It is morally wrong to compare children in this way because they are so developmentally different. Children need the space to be and to play. It is not a good idea to push them too hard, too soon."

Michael Rosen, children's novelist and poet: "All we're doing with league tables is ending up with false information that puts pressure on people and stigmatises them. What we should be doing is finding a way of encouraging co-operation between schools for the benefit of everybody."

Penelope Leach, childcare guru: "At five years old, at the beginning of school, that isn't the kind of judgment of an individual school we ought to be looking at. We ought to be looking at the ease with which children settle in - the extent to which there is flexibility on the hours children are able to keep."

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