School start assessments to be reviewed in Wales

Image caption Children are assessed when they start the foundation phase, between the ages of three and five

The education minister has admitted assessments children face when they start school in Wales "need more work" and has given details of a review.

The child development assessment plans are carried out on three to five-year-olds starting the foundation phase.

But they have been criticised by teaching unions who say they have increased teachers' workloads and kept some of them out of classrooms.

Leighton Andrews said an independent expert will review the assessments.

The child development assessment plans (CDAPs) were introduced this year to assess all new primary school entrants being taught under the foundation phase - the first stage of learning in Wales for children aged three to seven.

The main purpose of the profiles, according to the Welsh government, is to provide a "baseline" of where the child is and the next steps for their development.


But unions, including the NUT and NAHT Cymru, had expressed concern, saying form-filling was taking up too much of teachers' time, and had hoped officials would look again at the initiative.

Mr Andrews announced his intention to embark on the review, when he addressed the NASUWT conference in Swansea earlier this month.

Giving further details on Tuesday, he said an independent expert was expected to be appointed in March to carry out the review into the assessments.

"I have always said that we wanted to learn from the first term of the profile's introduction and that is what we intend to do," he said.

"We have received positive feedback on many aspects of the profile. Headteachers, teachers and classroom assistants have told us that the profile has provided them with a greater understanding of each child's stage of development and supported them in taking their learning forward.

"However, it is clear that the profile needs more work if it is to meet all our needs. This review will allow time for reflection on this term's experience and for any changes to be fully tested. The evidence already gathered will be the starting point of the review."

A revised profile will be introduced from the start of the 2013/14 school year.

For the remainder of this year, the minister said, schools can continue to use the assessment plan as they did during the autumn term, ensuring consistency of application.

'Bureaucratic burden'

However, because there has been a measure of inconsistency across Wales, local authorities will not be required to submit the results to the Welsh government at the end of the year.

"I will also be relaxing the requirements for reporting to parents for the remainder of the year," Mr Andrews added.

"For the spring and summer terms, schools will now be able to choose whether to report CDAP results in writing or verbally."

For the majority of children, that assessment is made at around the age of three.

However, some children may not enter the foundation phase - and will not be assessed - until they reach compulsory school age.

NUT executive member and Neath head teacher Beth Davies previously claimed the assessment plans meant children were going weeks without being taught.

"Teachers want nothing more than simply to be able to help children reach their potential," she said.

"Sadly the bureaucratic burden being placed on teachers through unnecessary testing and evaluation, which is essentially an assessment of the job parents have done before children start school, is really threatening the development of children."

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