Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

The DfE's Hokey Cokey Approach to Early Years

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

The DfE's Hokey Cokey Approach to Early Years

Article excerpt

An Early years teacher will have a full repertoire of songs and nursery rhymes for every occasion. And it seems that the Department for Education is drawing from this inspirational collection to guide its policymaking. Whether it's the Hokey Cokey ("in, out, in, out, shake it all about!") or Polly Put the Kettle On (with contrary Sukey), they've clearly been inspired by the constant toing and froing of nursery rhymes when planning early years assessment.

When the department consulted back in summer 2013 on changes to primary assessment (one of its lovely end-of-term gifts), it asked us whether it should introduce a baseline test for Reception: more than half of respondents said no. When asked if schools should be allowed to choose from a range of commercial options, nearly three-quarters said no. A third said it could cause inconsistencies and confusion. Nevertheless, that was what we got, and in return - to help manage workload - schools wouldn't have to complete the foundation stage profile after this summer.

It seems that, on this occasion, the many respondents to the consultation were right and the government wrong. Not that the department has admitted as much, of course. Instead we have been treated to the intervening years of rolling out baseline assessments only to see them scrapped. And so - the inevitable corollary - the foundation stage profile is back.

You might think the middle of the summer holidays is a strange time to announce this final stage of the early years U-turn. It suggests that four months after the first step - the scrapping of baseline tests - the DfE has come rather late to realising it has left something of a void. Surely somebody at the department should have noticed this back then? You can be certain that plenty of early years specialists have been thinking about it. Many were predicting the profile's return even then. …

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