In a week that has been dominated by talk of testing, yesterday brought what felt to me like the final straw. As if it wasn’t bad enough that correctly placed semi colons have been marked incorrect, for no obvious reason, and that the DfE apparently has an obsession with the slope of commas, they have now announced that 300 of our youngest school children will be taking part in a pilot of PISA tests for 5 year olds. I can almost feel my blood boiling as I write that sentence. The reasons why this is a bad idea are almost too numerous to mention, and I’m sure that I’ll miss loads, but I need to offload so here is my starter for ten. It’d be great if people could add to the list in the comments thread.
1. The use of a tablet based test for children of this age is developmentally inappropriate and cannot possibly capture the complexity of early child development. This message was sent home loud and clear to the DfE when schools rejected this kind of test for a proposed baseline, and a huge majority went for an observation based approach. Why is the DfE not listening to early years educators on how inappropriate and unreliable this test would be?
2. We have seen the political manipulation that takes place over the PISA results for older children. Talk of our ‘international rankings’ has been used to justify impositions by ministers, while they blithely ignore the contexts in which these rankings are given. Can anyone honestly tell me that this will not end up being more of the same?
3. Any test done on children in Reception needs to take account of the fact that there may be up to 364 days difference in their ages. A child who turns 5 on 1st September is 25% older than one who turns 5 on 31st August.
4. If a child is 4 years old, they are not in statutory education, and it would therefore seem to me to be unethical to include them in a test of early learning.
5. If there are children taking the test who have English as an additional language, any language based test is a test of their grasp of English rather than one of their development.
6. A tablet based test will inevitably favour those children who spend a lot of time on tablets. The DfE might want to think about the message that sends to parents as well as to schools.
7. It is almost inevitable that any ranking of countries according to how their children ‘perform’ at this age will cause a downwards pressure on early years settings. It is surely only a matter of time before ‘Prepare your children for the Baby PISA test’ materials become available.
8. Those of us in the early years have seen exactly what happens when early years ministers take a liking to approaches that are used in other countries. (If you’re in EYFS you might remember Liz Truss’s admiration for the French approach and the stories of nurseries with tennis balls on chair legs.)
9. Perhaps one of the reasons why only the US and England have so far signed up to this pilot, is because in the vast majority of countries children are not even in statutory education at this age.
10. And the idea that a tablet based test of a 5 year old could ever be a useful way to track the complexity of a child, and to show their progress and development to the age of 15? Well, that just PISAs me off.