Your four year old does not need a baseline assessment.
Both the Labour and Conservative parties currently say that testing four year olds will be in your child’s best interest. Phrases like “bespoke education” and “every child is unique and we need to know how” are thrown around and on the face of it, they sound nice.
But let’s think about what it really means. Your child has just arrived in school. She is possibly away from home on her own for the first time. The challenges she faces are the biggest in her life so far. Over the next few weeks she must learn how to learn, how to listen to instructions given to a group and understand that she is included in that group, how to follow a new set of routines, how to negotiate a complex set of relationships. This is before she even begins on the academic skills she is expected to master.
You will want her teacher to be attentive to her, able to respond to difficulties, to notice when misunderstanding or confusion are happening and correct them. You know that the most important thing during this very first experience of school is that your child is happy and settled.
Base line testing as soon as children arrive in schools stops any of that from happening. While the teacher is testing other children, what will your child be doing? Who will be noticing her difficulties? When your child is about to be tested, how will you be able to explain to her that she doesn’t need to be worried? How will you stop yourself from worrying?
Your child’s teacher already knows that she prefers football to dressing up. He knows that you have taught her how to hold a pencil properly. He is a trained professional and knows that the children in his charge are far more complex and vital than a set of statistics gathered so that the government can make a numerical prediction at four years old about their chances of success. Baseline testing won’t make him a better teacher, or your child a better learner; all they will do is make both your child and her teacher miserable.
We already expect the Tory party and their Victorian attitudes to happiness in childhood to be perfectly sanguine about the misery this policy will cause, but Tristram Hunt of the Labour Party is equally committed to it. I believe, however, that the Labour Party may be persuaded to change their minds were parents to voice their concerns.
If you believe, as I do, that baseline tests are not in your child’s best interests, please let Tristram Hunt know. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet https://twitter.com/TristramHuntMP or write to his campaign office at 88 Lonsdale Street, Stoke-on-Trent, ST4 4DP