It is important when we are working with young minds in any capacity that we have an understanding of where the ideas propagating the policies are coming from and where they may be heading. In this essay, I will address how different theories of developmental psychology have moulded how we have come to think about children and childhood, and the way in which this has infiltrated educational policy. I shall be looking specifically at the 2013 Key Stage 1 Assessment Arrangements including the phonics screening check, and providing a critical analysis of the future practice of this and the vision of education that this policy implies.
I shall then highlight the positive and negative features of developmental psychology and expand upon the effect that these theories – which, it can be argued, we in the Western world have come to accept as intrinsic truths -have had on our ideas about the nature of childhood and children's capabilities. I shall be analysing primarily the work of Piaget and the way that the growth of 'psychologisation' of children has permeated educational policy. I will then move on to look at the psychopathology of children and how, by uncovering a 'normal' standard, which is what I understand developmental psychology seeks to do, that inevitably necessitates the labelling of 'abnormal' or 'other'. This is termed by Rose (1985) and Ingleby (1985) as the 'psy-complex'.
'National' Assessments for 7-year olds
There are 47 pages of instructions on the Standards and Testing Agency Key Stage 1 assessment and reporting arrangements document, outlining which children this set of tests must be administered to and exact procedures for its application. The Standards and Testing Agency (STA) is an executive agency for the Department of Education, and it aims, according to the policy, to “raise the standards of educational achievement; close the educational achievement gap between rich and poor; [and] support all young people, particularly the disadvantaged”. (The Standards and Testing Agency Framework Document, 2011-2012:3). Whether or not it succeeds in doing this remains to be seen, although it does seem to be in direct contradiction with the general theme of developmental psychology, which it has been argued (Burman (2010), Rose (1985), Ingleby (1985) tends to seek out differences and alienate the unfortunate who are deemed to be outside of the 'normal' realm of development. The STA aims to do this via a system of testing and assessment which is meant to provide a sound representation of children's progress in order to highlight under-performing schools and provide evidenced accountability. The STA's “Full Business Case Summary” stipulates that its main objective is to provide “an effective and robust testing and assessment system that objectively [my own emphasis] measures and monitors pupil progress from the early years up until the end of Key Stage 3.” (STA, 2013:2) Soon to be implemented legislation will evaluate children and judge them on their performance in the three widely accepted 'core' subjects of English, Maths and Science. Correct pronunciation will also be tested, and all of these results will be amalgamated to provide a neat and tidy account of how the school is performing.
This Assessment and Reporting Arrangement (ARA) applies to all maintained schools, including maintained special schools with children in Key Stage 1. All academies, where the funding agreement for the school requires that it must comply with statutory guidance for assessing children's and teacher's performance must also adhere to the arrangements set out in the STA document. Independent schools may apply to take part in the assessment, although they are not required by law to do so. However, if an independent school intends to claim that the results achieved by their pupils...