Children to be tested in first year at school

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The Independent Online
PRIMARY SCHOOLS will be told this week by David Blunkett to start basic assessments of children as soon as they enrol.

The Secretary of State for Education wants primary-school teachers to carry out an assessment of whether each child can count to 10, recognise the sound of letters in the alphabet, and remain in class unsupervised for 10 minutes.

"We want to see baseline assessment in all primary schools for the first time from the age of admission, rather than waiting until they are seven years old," said a government source.

Mr Blunkett is wary of describing the new assessments as tests, but the move is intended to help parents and teachers determine the standard of each child, and whether special help is needed. "It could help to tackle dyslexia, for example. We think the parents will want this," said the source.

Teaching unions have complained about the additional workload from testing, and some teachers may be unhappy with a further burden being placed on them in primary schools, but many schools already carry out baseline assessments.

Mr Blunkett flatly denied a report that parents of primary-school pupils will be told to send their children to bed on time and ensure that they have up to 12 hours' sleep under new contracts that schools will draw up with families.

Schools are being asked by Mr Blunkett to reach agreement with the parents about setting basic rules of behaviour, time-keeping and homework, but this will not extend to bed-time rules. The suggestion had led to protests from both David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, and Theresa May, the Conservative spokeswoman on schools.

Ms May said: "This New Labour madness is the nanny state out of control ... It's time this government stopped bossing people about and trusted them to get on with their own lives."