Schools in England will take part in a pilot of tablet-based tests for five-year-olds, the Department for Education has announced.
Officials say England will join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) international early learning and child well-being study (IELS).
A field trial, run by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), will take place between October and December, involving around 300 children in 20 schools or childcare settings.
This study will provide valuable insights into how five-year-olds develop
Results will be used to map pupils’ early capabilities to their education performance at age 15 through the international PISA tables.
The study will use stories and games on tablet devices to look at the social behaviour, empathy, memory and self-regulation of 5-year-olds, as well as their early skills in language, literacy and numeracy.
The DfE says it will also take into account other “contextual factors”, including family characteristics, home environment and individual circumstances. This will be based on information from questionnaires that parents and staff will be asked to complete.
Schools Week reported in February that the government was considering taking part in the study, which has been criticised amid fears that it could fail to identify the “rich variety of characteristics that indicate a child’s knowledge, skills and point of development”.
Officials say the study will “take a holistic approach” to exploring “how to support a child’s cognitive, social and emotional wellbeing through a combination of interactive stories and games”.
Robert Goodwill, the newly-appointed children’s minister, said his department already knew that children who attend pre-school can increase their GCSE attainment “by as much as seven grades”, and says the government now wants to “sharpen our understanding of how it can have the most impact”.
“This study will build on the evidence available, driving our work tackling low social mobility and helping to spread opportunities for all children,” he said.
Iram Siraj, a professor of early childhood education at the UCL Institute of Education, and a member of the OECD’s technical advisory group on the IELS said the study will provide “valuable insights into how five-year-olds develop”.
These insights, Siraj said, will benefit “both professionals and parents who want to know how best to support their children’s early home learning,” he added.
Schools Week understands that schools are yet to be selected for the study.