Recent news that children as young as five may have to take a formal baseline test as part of a new drive to support pupils is alarming, to say the very least. Yes, education is important, especially early years education – it lays the foundation for a well-rounded education that carries on into adulthood. Kids who learn to learn effectively seem to do much better academically than their classmates. However, as an early years education specialist, I greeted news of baseline testing with horror.
Education is vital for kids; I’ll be the first to agree with that. I do see education primarily as the responsibility of the parent – schools are just one of the tools we have at our disposal. School is where kids get their formal education, but they’re learning every single waking moment, so education is happening all around them, all day long and parents and care givers need to take this on board.
Early years education is all about enabling little ones to achieve, building their self confidence. There are loads of activities you can do with your child where you can make sure that they succeed. Of course, a certain degree of failure is also part of the learning process, but this can be made fun. Teach your child to look at failure as an opportunity to learn how to succeed next time round.
During the early years, children learn at different rates and it’s important to understand this and not to worry about it. Worrying will just create a problem that you pass on to your child, the last thing you want to do. It’s not particularly useful to compare your child’s development with other children – a child who reads early may be slow in learning to pedal a first trike. A little one who shows no interest in learning to count yet might begin co-operative play earlier than others and lead the way within the group. They all get there in the end so I don’t think testing at the age of five is particularly useful or fair.
Early years teachers and other professionals in the UK are usually pretty adept at spotting if one of their charges needs extra help with anything and there are systems in place within education and the health service to get this help to the child effectively. As for plans to start testing five year olds – I think the politicians should leave that alone, early years professionals are doing a great job in ensuring a valuable all round education for little ones through the medium of play.