Assessments of children starting formal schooling
This study will consider ways in which the teacher might identify appropriate starting points in teaching for children who are finding tasks difficult. Advice and information from other teachers and the child’s care-givers, in addition to careful observation of the child, can help to identify ‘where the child is’. This is particularly important for children starting compulsory schooling, as the diversity of pre-infant school provision means that the reception class is likely to include 5-year-olds with widely different experiences and expectations about school.
Careful assessment through various forms of observation (not formal tests) of the point reached by a child (say 5-6 years old) in his or her learning, and teaching which builds on this knowledge are main objectives of current study. It is not being suggested that starting points for, say, 5-year-olds should be only in terms specifically and directly linked with National Curriculum attainment targets. Broader assessment based on observation is important for all children but particularly for any children thought to have difficulties in learning.
Observation of children is a vital first step in planning how their learning can be fostered. Observation can take many forms, structured or unstructured, involving the teacher working with the child or remaining distanced. When and how teachers observe children will depend both on the aims of that observation and on what is realistic in a busy classrooom.