FOUR-year-olds could be facing assessment tests when they start school in September.

In the first six weeks of the new school year, reception class pupils will be asked questions for the new reception baseline assessment. The assessment will test language skills and an ability to count. Youngsters aged four and five in 10,000 schools across the UK will take part in the pilot scheme set to be rolled out across the country.

Schools can inform parents about the tests at their discretion, but they will have no legal obligation to do so. It is unclear how many south Essex schools will trial the test.

Trevor Harp, Southend councillor responsible for children and learning, said: “Schools have been invited directly by the Department for Education, and we will support all our schools where we can and we will review the outcomes once they become available to us.

“I would like to reassure parents that these assessments are simply to give reception teachers a greater understanding of each child and it is not a pass or fail assessment.”

Jerry Glazier, secretary for the Essex branch of the National Education Union, criticised the assessments.

He said: “As well as disrupting the settling-in process for children, this test will place a workload burden on reception teachers and support staff at the start of the year.

“Reception teachers carry out ongoing assessments of the children they teach, through observations, in order to plan effectively for learning. Schools already rigorously track the progress of each child.

“The union is concerned that that the sole purpose of baseline assessment is not to support children in Reception but to provide data by which schools can be held accountable seven years later at KS2.”

Readers to the Echo’s Facebook page voiced concerns. Mary Hodges said: “As an ex-teacher who has taught in several different countries I believe it’s awful. The whole UK system of testing our young children is terrible.

"It’s been proven that young children learn better via play methods and not by pushing them into formal education too early.”

Some supported the tests, however. Simon Barrass said: “It will be a good indication of what the parents have done with their kids rather than teachers.

"A good education starts at home. Our three-year-old has better skills than that of four to five-year-olds because we create a positive learning environment and spend time with them.”