Plans to put seven year olds through national exams slammed

Hambleton Primary Academy headteacher Pamela Birch in the playground
Hambleton Primary Academy headteacher Pamela Birch in the playground
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Plans to introduce national exams for seven-year-olds have been branded ‘excessive’ and ‘concerning’.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan is looking at more robust tests for the youngsters, insisting they must provide a ‘firm basis’ for measuring pupils’ academic progress.

But Hambleton Primary Academy headteacher Pam Birch, who is also a member of the Headteacher Board of the Regional School’s Commissioner, warned listing seven-year-olds in a national league table will put too much pressure on them.

And Blackpool Council’s school boss Coun John Jones accused the government of ‘bombarding children with excessive testing’.

Mrs Birch said: “Good teaching and learning has assessment at its heart; it’s how we judge what children know or can do in order to move them on.

“Teachers currently assess children against national criteria when they are seven and submit results to the government.

“The difference with what Nicky Morgan is saying seems to be that the assessments will be externally marked and publicly reported in the form of league tables.

“External making is very costly, and not always very good, and I would be concerned that more league tables will place a greater emphasis on these tests, potentially pressuring very young children.”

Standardised national tests for pupils in Year Two were dropped in 2004, with schools in England given responsibility for assessing levels in literacy, writing, maths and science.

Children who fail to grasp basic literacy and numeracy at primary school will now have to resit tests at secondary, Mrs Morgan said.

Coun John Jones, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for school improvement, said: “Generally speaking, our primary schools are performing well and children in those schools make good progress.

“The government is obsessed with bombarding children with excessive testing that puts unnecessary pressure that is potentially damaging to our children.

“What would be much more helpful is if the education secretary would address the roots of these problems and the wider impact of inequalities specific to each region.”

A new National Teaching Service (NTS) will also be created, recruiting 1,500 of the ‘brightest and best’ teachers by 2020 to work in the toughest schools.

The scheme will be piloted in the north west with up to 100 teachers starting from next September, although no more details have been given at this stage.

Mrs Morgan said: “Over the past five years we’ve extended opportunity to thousands of young people, through raised standards, heightened expectations and a rigour revolution.

“But for all we’ve achieved, too many young people aren’t being given a fair shot to succeed because of where they live.”

But shadow education secretary Lucy Powell said: “For all their talk of standards, the Tories’ record on education is poor.

“Rather than drive up standards, they have created a school’s policy that has allowed the attainment gap between poorer children and their peers to widen, teacher shortages particularly in subjects that are key to our country’s competitiveness such as English and maths, and pushed post-16 education to a cliff edge, limiting opportunities for the next generation.”