As families across the country learn which school their four-year-olds will be joining in September, the majority of parents and headteachers disagree with government plans to formally test pupils in English and maths within the first few weeks of starting term, according to our new research.
The YouGov survey of over 2000 parents of primary-age children in England found that only 6% think formally testing new school starters in maths and English is important in the first few weeks of term and only 8% strongly support the introduction of the government’s controversial Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA).
Primary school leaders surveyed agree: almost two-thirds (64%) believe the test should not be going ahead this year, with only 16% agreeing that it will be a good use of teaching time.
Parents’ priorities for the crucial first few weeks are focused on the social and practical aspects of school, according to the research. The most important factors for the parents surveyed were: settling into school (84%); making friends (77%); learning the routines of the school day (67%) and enjoying new activities (61%).
The government plans to use the information collected from the tests as a baseline to measure progress when children leave school in seven years’ time. However, a major concern of primary school leaders surveyed is that the Covid effect on pre-school experiences will render any data produced from the tests useless as a baseline measure (63% agree). Although nurseries remained open during lockdown, attendance was low, reaching under 50% in January, February and March. After so much disruption, no wonder only 8% of school leaders surveyed believe that the RBA will produce more accurate information than observational assessment by teachers.
The government is yet to publish any detail on how progress will be measured in the future, leaving many heads and experts to dismiss the plan as “pointless and damaging.”
Chris Dyson, headteacher, Parklands Primary School in Leeds, comments, “The first few weeks of school are so important for our young learners. The last thing they need is for that critical settling-in period to be disrupted by an irrelevant data-gathering operation. My teachers want to spend that time making sure their pupils are happy and comfortable and starting their learning journey with confidence. I trust them to do this job by assessing pupils’ needs through careful observation, not a formal test in English and maths.”
Nancy Stewart from More Than A Score comments, “The coming school year is not the time to subject any primary school children to formal government tests. The focus must be on pupils’ emotional wellbeing and mental health and that starts with the very youngest children.”
Note to editors:
Parents research: All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2012 parents (18+) of children aged 4 to 11 in England. Fieldwork was undertaken between 11th – 16th March 2021. The survey was carried out online.
School leaders research: All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 234 senior primary school teachers in England. Fieldwork was undertaken between 11th – 22nd March 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted by region.