Pre-schoolers and friendly grown-ups from across the country will join the over 200-strong March of the Four-Year-Olds to Downing Street on Thursday 25 April to demand a halt to the government’s controversial plans to test children when they first start school.
They will hand a petition of over 65,000 signatures to No.10, opposing reception baseline assessment which will test four-year-olds in English and maths in the first few weeks of the Autumn term. The scheme, costing £10 million, is due to be piloted from September, with a national roll-out in 2020.
The children will be joined by MPs, teachers and campaigners. They will gather in Parliament Square, then march to Downing Street, singing songs and waving flags. The protestors will travel to London from across the country including Devon, Brighton, County Durham, Manchester, Liverpool and Stafford.
The protest has been organised by More Than A Score, the alliance of parents, teachers, heads and education experts, working together to call for change to the government’s policy on standardised testing. They point out that, from 2020, pupils will face standardised tests in reception, year 1, year 2, year 4 and year 6.
Elaine Bennett, spokesperson for More Than A Score comments, “The government has refused to listen to teachers, parents and early education experts, all of whom agree: testing four-year-olds within the first few weeks of starting school makes no sense. So we’re bringing the message directly to Westminster with the help of those who will be affected the most: children who will be starting school as these pointless and damaging plans are rolled out.
“We are still waiting for the government to provide any evidence that four-year-olds can be reliably tested. Now over 65,000 people agree that this absurd plan should be halted in its tracks.”
The introduction of reception baseline assessment has been criticised by education experts, parents, teachers and heads. Recent research* revealed that 96% of primary school leaders believe reception teachers should not be spending the first few weeks of term preparing pupils for tests while three-quarters (74%) believe it is not possible to reliably test four-year-olds.
The British Educational Research Association has described the tests as “flawed, unjustified and totally unfit for purpose”, while Durham University’s centre for evaluation and monitoring (CEM) — who have been involved in previous baseline trials — has condemned the plans as “verging on the immoral”.
Elaine Bennett continues, “This assessment regime has nothing to do with providing a quality education and everything to do with a system obsessed with league tables and turning children into data points as soon as they start school.
“Like SATs, the baseline tests will bring extra workload for teachers as well as stress for children right at the start of their school experience when settling in happily and confidently should have first priority.”