Leading article: Are profiles a stage too far?

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Ministers would do well to heed the warning from Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, to review arrangements for the foundation stage profile - the assessment of what every five-year-old is capable of before they start compulsory schooling.

Ministers would do well to heed the warning from Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, to review arrangements for the foundation stage profile - the assessment of what every five-year-old is capable of before they start compulsory schooling.

According to inspectors, the introduction of the profile has led to schools abandoning the practice of allowing children to start in reception classes in the summer term before they reach the age of five - and insisting that they start earlier so the teachers have time to prepare the profile before they leave the reception class. As a result, some children are starting school too early - not ready to cope with the demands of the classroom.

Any criticism of the way the foundation stage profile is operating in schools is not to say that the idea itself is flawed - indeed, it is eminently sensible that the Year 1 primary school teacher should have as much information as possible about his or her new charges. It is just that - as David Bell, the chief inspector of schools, said - the idea of carrying out 117 assessments of what a child can or cannot do is far too bureaucratic and time-consuming for most teachers to do adequately. The reaction of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the Government's exams watchdog, in promising to consider what emerged from the Ofsted report, was far more astute than the comment from the Department for Education and Skills, which simply re-emphasised that the profile was the way forward and failed to look at any of the criticisms.

Ofsted's report, stemming from inspections of some 46 schools, also criticised the way that too much of the early years curriculum was taken up with the demands of teaching the three Rs at the expense of creativity. If it was not instilled into teachers that they must measure up their charges to the 117 assessments and then prepare them for their key stage one (seven-year-old) national curriculum tests, that might lead to more creativity in the curriculum.

The pilot this summer in just over 30 local education authorities that concentrates on assessment rather than testing at seven is due to be rolled out nationally next year. That will free teachers from teaching to the test once pupils have started compulsory schooling. A reduction in the amount of assessment pre-five will do the same in the reception class.

Comments