Tests for five-year-olds are given go-ahead

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The Independent Online

Children will be tested at five or earlier under proposals announced by the Government yesterday.

Robin Squire, the schools minister, said the Government had not yet decided whether testing five-year-olds would be voluntary or enforced by legislation. Voluntary tests could be introduced next September but compulsory ones could not be in place until 1998.

Gillian Shephard, the Secretary of State for Education, has asked her advisers on the curriculum and testing to look at ways in which schools are testing five-year-olds.

At present most schools test five-year-olds to find out their weaknesses. Ministers want to use tests to measure schools' and children's progress as happens in local authorities such as Birmingham. Schools' success would be judged by the progress children made between the ages of five, seven and eleven. Tests for 7- and 11-year-olds are already in place.

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "Any attempt to substitute simple tests for some of the excellent local authority schemes will merely diminish the quality of assessment."

Pupils will be tested on the basis of goals for five-year-olds drawn up by the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority. Marian Whitehead of the Early Years Curriculum Group said: "This is backwards to basics and can only lead to selling five-year-olds short and turning them off learning for life."

Goals or "outcomes" include: personal and social development: children to be confident, show self-respect, take turns and share fairly; language and literacy: know print reads from left to right, recognise own names and some familiar words; maths: use numbers to 10 and be familiar with bigger numbers in their everyday lives; knowledge and understanding of the world: talk about where they live, their environment, their families, past and present events in their own lives; use computers; physical development: use small and large equipment; creative development: use their imaginations through art, music, dance, stories and play.