Families descend on Downing Street calling for early years testing to be scrapped

Video report by ITV News Meridian's Social Affairs Correspondent Christine Alsford

Children as young as four travelled to Downing Street on Thursday (23rd September) to deliver a petition protesting against controversial new government tests being introduced for the youngest pupils this term.

Signed by more than 100,000 people, the petition is opposing new assessments which have to be done in a child's first six weeks of school. 

The new Reception Baseline Assessment should take 20 minutes and will be carried out one on one with a teacher. 

They will look at a child's ability in numeracy and literacy plus communication and language skills using a series of tasks.

Credit: ITV News Meridian

Many of the families making the trip to Downing Street were from Brighton.

They believe the assessments in Maths and English will waste up to 300,000 hours in valuable teaching time and that starting school should be about making friends and playing.

At the moment the first national assessment of pupils is carried out in Year 2 when pupils are aged seven. 

However, the government says the measures are not tests, there is no pass mark and they will be used to show how schools help children progress right from the minute they enter the classroom.

The government says the new system will be much fairer and give schools credit for the hard work they do in the early years.

Credit: ITV News Meridian

In a statement, a Department for Education spokesperson said: "It is vital that children do not miss out on building important vocabulary and reading skills in their early years despite the challenges that the pandemic has presented. The Reception Baseline Assessment is not a test and there is no pass mark."

However, campaigners believe that this is yet another dangerous mis-step by an education system overly focused on assessment.

They question its value, especially when no other country in the world insists on formally testing children at such a young age.