Are these assessments and screening checks good for our health?

Professor Margaret Clark writes a critique of the Phonics Screening Check which now dominates Early Years Education. We are grateful to Margaret Clark and the Education Journal for allowing us to reproduce this article.


The DfE continues to spend significant amounts of the education budget on both the reception baseline assessment and phonics screening check. Despite fierce opposition from some teachers, parents and early years experts, the reception baseline assessment (RBA), focusing on early literacy, communication, language and maths skills on entry to school, was piloted in some schools in September 2019. Whilst it is claimed that the test will provide a measure of how primary schools are helping their pupils to progress, there are doubts the test can provide accurate information.

Furthermore, the DfE propose that the ‘light touch’ phonics screening check (PSC) assesses whether children have learnt phonic decoding to a sufficient standard. Skilled teachers and practitioners need time and space to work sensitively and flexibly with children in the early years of schooling. Implementing the RBA and PSC comes at significant cost, and the fact that both focus on accountability processes and test a narrow range of skills is concerning.

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