Formal testing of children at nursery

23/07/2013  -  10.11

Dr Judy Whitmarsh - Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in Childhood Research.

Formal testing of children at nursery

This blog post from Dr Judy Whitmarsh is in relation to the debate over formal testing of children at nursery, conducted by Sir Michael Wilshaw and Dr Richard House, which can be found here:

The ‘best’ nurseries use a variety of different approaches to support the children in their care, not just testing or assessing.

The Eppe Report (Effective provision of pre-school education) and the REPEY study (Researching effective pedagogy in the early years) demonstrate that children need a balance of adult-led and child-led learning activities; furthermore, when the curriculum is closely matched to the child in terms of ability and challenge, learning will be more effective.

Most parents want the best for their child but there is a big difference in how parents interpret this and in the provision of learning experiences within the home. Parents’ socio-economic status and levels of education are closely linked to child attainment, yet we do not have Sir Michael Wilshaw suggesting that parental income should be raised or that parents should be encouraged to increase their own qualifications as a ‘quick fix’ to improve child outcomes.

Dr Richard House is right to query the early ‘schoolification’ of children.

With one school entry a year in our area, a child may enter Reception class aged just 4 years-old, while her peers may be up to 11 months older. A year makes a huge difference in physical, mental, social and emotional terms at this age and testing will only reinforce this.

Children develop and mature in different ways at different ages and assessment/testing cannot allow for developmental differences. Our child of just four may only be just managing to get through the school day without a ‘nap’ whereas the child who is just five may be bouncing with energy as she emerges through the school gates.

While no-one would deny that teachers need to evaluate the learning, emotional, and communication needs of children in order to support their progress, do we really need another level of formalised testing in the classroom?

As one old man in our village said ‘You don’t fatten a pig by weighing it’ - not that I am in any way suggesting that our children are piglets, of course!