Patten considering tests for 5-year-olds

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SCHOOL TESTS for five-year-olds are being considered, John Patten, Secretary of State for Education, said last night.

The tests would measure children's abilities - which could vary according to background and other factors - when they started school.

Eamon O'Kane, deputy general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers, said the idea was likely to face opposition from teachers and parents similar to that expressed over new tests for children aged 7 and 14.

The idea of tests for children starting school - suggested recently by the former Conservative minister Dr Rhodes Boyson - was seized upon by Mr Patten when it was mentioned on the Sky News Target programme. He said: 'That's a very interesting point and it is something we are actually considering, funnily enough. I think it might be a very good idea to have some judgement. If teachers are worried that children are coming in at rising five at different levels, different backgrounds and the rest of it, and it is therefore very difficult to judge their progress at seven, what we need is something very simple to measure what their standards are when they enter school.

'After the ham-fisted way the other tests have been handled, the idea of having yet another tier of them isn't a principle we are likely to endorse. Children are tested informally when they come into school. But if the Government started formal tests the whole bureaucracy would grind up again to make it a very formal thing. That would bring many of the problems that are associated with the other tests.'