The Government are intent on introducing baseline tests of 4-year-old children. This could have dire consequences by putting a cap on many children’s learning.
The tests will give teachers the impression that each child’s future potential can be calculated.
This is not even possible 3 years later. A new analysis of KS1 tests by Education Datalab shows the dangers of a belief in fixed ability.
The data shows that a third of the children scoring only Level 1 in Reading and Writing at age 7 went on to get a C or higher in English. In fact, 16% of seven-year-olds who were below Level 1 achieved B or C grades for GCSE English, and 1% achieved an A or A*.
The dangers of early prediction are even higher for children with English as an Additional Language. Nearly half of children in this category scoring Level 1 in reading and writing went on to get a C or higher in English.
The new Baseline tests will create the impression of scientific accuracy. This will increase the tendency of schools to segregate children into different “ability groups”. They will affect the way teachers – and parents – think about children.
The children with the lowest scores could receive a more restricted curriculum, with less interest and challenge. Low scores at Baseline will then become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Some groups are more at risk than others:
- children speaking little English at home
- children growing up in poverty
- summer-born children who are barely 4 when tested
- children with various forms of special needs
- children affected by family breakdown
- children who have suffered ill health
- children who are slow to settle at school.
However, the Baseline tests are a danger for every child. They will encourage a curriculum with limited play or learning from direct experience, which will be inappropriate for young children.