Let’s Test 4 Year olds – Seriously!

Can anyone really believe this new baseline assessment is a good idea! Well those who do not know or understand child development but love to measure data seem to.

They also believe spending £10 million on testing the very young when school budgets are being squeezed somehow makes sense. I do not get it. Who is thinking of the children? How can anyone prove this data will be reliable? There are so many things that could affect how a child responds to the questions; shyness and EAL are just two. I doubt any of this will be considered, it is a one size fits all test. A test that will have no benefit to the children or their families.

The teacher, who is just getting to know the children, is expected to test each child individually for 20 minutes. Although I have my doubts it will be 20 minutes simply because they are four-year olds. Will they understand the questioning, will the teacher be explaining it to them? If they are to be taken out of the classroom then yes this will alleviate any distractions but it also puts the child in a situation very unnatural to them. How many four-year olds will feel unsure in this situation, not want to give a wrong answer and that’s regardless of being with a person they are beginning to trust.

This is also on top of the school’s own observational assessment to find out how best to support each child. In the Early Years we use observational assessments as a way of understanding individual children as they demonstrate their knowledge and skills while engaging in activities or experiences. There is no right or wrong as each child is at a different developmental point in their early life. An observational assessment can help us learn about a child’s interests, how they engage with their world, their strengths and what they can understand or where they need supporting (Broadhead, 2006). This baseline assessment is all about what can be measured. It comes down to whatever is considered of value to the adults who decide policy. This has nothing to do with a child’s potential.


Recently I completed a research study which inferred many early years professionals felt early years pedagogy and learning is misunderstood. The ongoing discussion between the different sectors of education alone regarding the baseline highlights some of this lack of understanding. A Reception classroom is quite different from other years. It seems very sad that those with the skills and professional knowledge required to support our youngest children have not been listened to. This assessment will provide no helpful information about children’s needs but will take up the teacher’s valuable time.

As a society are we so stuck on using an adult view of attainment and measurable academic outcomes, that what is developmentally appropriate for our children is pushed to the side? What does that say about our society? Childhood is a relatively short time of anybody’s life with the early years a period of rapid holistic development that creates the secure foundation for future progress (UNICEF, 2001). The agreement that early years education is important and that children learn best in a natural play environment seems to be slowly eroding away. First it’s this test, what comes next?

The new baseline assessment is nothing but a flawed attempt to measure our schools over the course of seven years. The amount of potential interference over the course of seven years makes the whole concept laughable. Children move schools, become unwell, some could suffer a trauma, there are so many possible things that could happen.

In short, the data collected will be an unreliable measurement of progress.

Broadhead, P. (2006) Developing an understanding of young children’s learning through play: The place of observation, interaction and reflection. British Educational Research Journal Vol.32:2 pp.191-207

UNICEF (2001) Early Childhood Development. The key to a full and productive life. New York: UNICEF.

1 thought on “Let’s Test 4 Year olds – Seriously!”

  1. Well said Sarah. As an Early Years Teacher with 20 years experiencein working with the 0-5 age range I agree with everything you have said.
    It demonstrates the lack of understanding and knowledge these policy makers have and their power and negative influence on early years is criminal.

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