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School infants checks attacked

Schools should reject new literacy and numeracy checks for infants if they believe they are not right for their pupils, it has been suggested.

Headteachers have said that are "deeply concerned" about new baseline assessments for four and five-year-olds, warning they could particularly disadvantage boys and the youngest children - those born in the summer months.

Delegates at the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) annual conference in Liverpool backed a resolution calling on the government to "stop imposing external, educationally questionable tests on our youngest school children" and trust early years professionals to assess the needs of children at this stage of their education.

Under the outgoing government's reforms, from September 2016, infants will undergo literacy and numeracy checks just weeks after they start in reception.

The results of these optional checks will be used to chart children's progress throughout the seven years of primary school and to hold schools accountable for pupils' progress over that time.

Ministers have insisted that the move will help ensure children leave primary school with a good standard of reading, writing and maths

But proposing the motion, Judy Shaw, a delegate from Yorkshire, said: "I'm deeply concerned about the intended introduction of standardised baseline tests, which, from September, will be administered to four and five-year-olds in the first six weeks of school."

Although the tests are optional, there will be pressure on school leaders to adopt them, she suggested, adding that at such a young age, most children will not show their true abilities in a test that is taken out of the context of their familiar learning environment.

Ms Shaw told the conference: "They're harmful to child well-being. Children's ages, on entering the English schooling system can vary by as much as 12 months. Boys and the summer-born are likely to be particularly disadvantaged."

Dominic Loyd, an NAHT member from Lincolnshire, said that in the past, when he had been to headteachers' meetings he had looked at issues and asked if they were statutory and, if they were not, had considered whether the policy was right or wrong for his school.

He went on to say: "I'd be urging colleagues, if it's optional, why do it, because in seven years time, things will be very different, we'll be having a different argument and a different government."

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