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Universal baseline test from 2002

A SINGLE national assessment for children starting school is to be introduced from 2002, writes Julie Henry.

At present, there are 90 approved schemes in use for "baseline" assessments - carried out within seven weeks of children beginning Year 1.

Now ministers are proposing a single assessment to be conducted at the end of the reception year.

The move follows research which found teachers want one nationally comparable assessment to use as evidence for threshold applications and inspections.

The Warwick University survey - commissioned by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority - questioned 2,000 schools and local authorities as well as heads andparents.

It found a high level of satisfaction with current schemes. But heads and teachers said a "value-added" measure of children's progress would be of great benefit in judging their performance.

A national scheme would also mean pupils moving schools arrived with a result comaptible with the new school's.

But fears have been raised that the move could be seen as "testing for five-year-olds".

The new assessment will include a measure of the progress made by each child towards the new early learning goals, which include children being able to count to 10 and being able to write their name. Consultation on the proposals begins next month.

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