Tests force children into school 'too early'

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Children are being forced to start school at too early an age as a result of a Government plan to "test" five-year-olds, inspectors reveal today.

Children are being forced to start school at too early an age as a result of a Government plan to "test" five-year-olds, inspectors reveal today.

Many schools are abandoning arrangements to take four-year-olds into reception classes in the summer term, says a report by Ofsted, the education standards watchdog. Instead, they are insisting they start the previous September or January, when they could be three.

This gives teachers time to complete assessments - or profiles - on them by the time they begin compulsory schooling. David Bell, the chief schools inspector, is urging ministers to order a review of the profiles.

The report describes the change as "an unintended effect of the introduction of the profile" and warns that some children do not have the attention span to cope. Ofsted says staff found it difficult to settle some boys into social routines such as listening, concentrating and focusing on a task.

Under the Government's plans, teachers must draw up a profile of pupils' achievements, showing how well they mastered activities including counting up to 10, recognising the alphabet and tying shoelaces. The profiles are intended as a guide to primary school teachers and parents.

The survey, based on 46 schools, reveals that teachers found compiling the profile time-consuming and dismissed it as unsophisticated. But a spokeswoman for the education department said the profiles were "the right mechanism to record children's progress".

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