League tables for five year olds

3rd December 2010 at 00:00
Gove to publish school-by-school results after just a year of formal education

School league tables of pupil performance at just five years old are set to be published under highly controversial government plans to give parents more information.

The move will see school-by-school results published for the first time after children have completed only one year of formal education. It has been condemned by early years education experts, which fear it will put young children under pressure and turn them off learning.

At present, individual school results are only published for tests taken at the end of primary school and after GCSEs. A fierce campaign has been waged to abolish key stage 2 Sats by teaching unions amid claims that the use of results in league tables encourages teaching to the test and a narrow curriculum.

The extension of tables to five year-olds will prove equally contentious, particularly as schools will have had little opportunity to affect children's performance.

The proposal, contained in the Department for Education's business plan, is to use results from the early years foundation stage (EYFS) profile, which is completed at the end of pupils' reception year.

Four and five-year-olds are assessed on aspects of learning, including whether they can count to ten, blend sounds in words and understand that people have different beliefs.

At the moment, the results are only published at national and local authority level. The Government said in the business plan that it will publish the results by school in order to "help people make informed choices".

The aim, part of a wider look at publishing data collected from schools, comes despite an ongoing review into the EYFS, which includes looking at assessment.

NUT general secretary Christine Blower condemned the idea of league tables for five-year-olds.

"Parents are much more interested in whether their child will be happy and well cared for at this age," she said.

"This data will not only be unreliable but will also lead to the creation of league tables for nurseries and could turn a whole generation of children off learning before they even start formal schooling."

NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby said: "It would be a significant step backwards. Parents should have access to this information on their children, but what is it telling you about schools?

"It is telling you a lot about the environment the children come from, but is not at all an accurate measure of the quality of the school.

"It is a gimmick in the name of transparency. Parents will be drowning in data that is not helping them pick good schools."

Tina Bruce, an early education expert and visiting professor at Roehampton University, described the proposals as "absolutely terrible". She said: "The worry about the profile was precisely that it would put young children under pressure; if you start publishing results you do inevitably put them under pressure."

The move to publish results comes as the Government is also due to introduce a new national reading test for six-year-olds at the end of Year 1.

The DfE has said that it is not proposing to publish the results of the proposed Year 1 reading tests at school level because it does not want pupils to be aware that they are being formally assessed. "It is important that we do not introduce an assessment which leads to young children feeling pressurised," the consultation on the tests said.

But the Department confirmed that the consultation to publish EYFS data at school level will continue. A date for their proposed publication has not been set.

A DfE spokesman said: "We are consulting on the transparency section of the draft business plan. Clare Tickell (chief executive of Action for Children) is reviewing EYFS and will make recommendations on how young children's development should best be assessed."

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