Survey in Year 4 of primary school

To pursue this groundbreaking research on children’s learning, a similar initiative has been undertaken in primary schools in the autumn of 2020, generally involving Year 4 teachers. There are plans for further surveys when the children move up to secondary school. These will allow us to analyse how children approach the different areas of learning taught at school, taking account of their living conditions and family structure, as well as their health and cognitive development.

The main novelty of this survey, compared with previous ones, is that it has included Year 3 children who were born very prematurely, in order to find out more about any learning difficulties they may experience.

The school surveys has been designed with the approval by the French Ministry of National Education and overseen by the French Data Protection Authority (CNIL). 

Practical organization

The children has been given the exercises to do in the classroom during the first term of the school year, between September and December 2020.
The parents of the Elfe children, who were generally in their fourth year of primary school, have been asked whether they agreed with this school survey in principle and whether they wished their child’s teacher to be involved.

Those teachers who have been requested to do so by the parents filled in a mini-questionnaire about the Elfe child in their class and administer exercises to test his or her learning in French and mathematics. To avoid singling out individual children, while at the same time keeping things simple for the teacher, these exercises have also been performed by three other randomly selected children.

Types of exercises

The exercises are not necessarily tied to the national curriculum. This means that some are pitched above the level of academic expectations, in order to measure the children’s learning however it has been acquired, be it at school or within the family.
Alongside these activities in the classroom, each child’s teacher is asked to fill in a questionnaire about the skills learned by the child and any support he or she receives for special needs, as well as the characteristics of the class as a whole and the teacher him- or herself.

The children will be given exercises that probe :

  • their maths learning (counting, comparing and simple reasoning) ;
  • and mastery of the French language (identification of written words, oral comprehension, written comprehension and knowledge of grammatical rules).

For instance, after listening to two sentences (for oral comprehension), the children will be asked to decide whether they mean the same thing and to write their answer out ("The fish is neither slow nor noisy |=| The fish is quick but not noisy").

The children will do most of the exercises on their own, to free the teacher up to work with the other pupils.

How will the teachers receive the survey material?

The survey documents will be communicated to the teachers by the families and by the National Institute for Demographic Studies (INED). More specifically, parents who have agreed to their child doing these exercises will hand the teacher an envelope containing material that supplements material sent directly to the school.

When exactly will the children do the exercises?

The four participants will do the exercises during school time, whenever the teacher feels it fits in best with the life of the class. As the teacher will have to supervise the four pupils during the test, the rest of the class will have to be set another activity, so that they do not disturb each other. The exercises will be performed over several days, in any week in the first term of the 2020‑2021 school year.


Some teachers were asked by families to give their children exercises to test what they had learned in French and mathematics. They were also invited to complete a mini-questionnaire not just about their pupils, but also about themselves (experience of teaching this age group, use of teaching materials and resources).

Teachers were free to choose whether to participate in this school survey, and did so on an entirely voluntary basis. Their personal data were processed for the purposes of the study in accordance with the provisions of the 1978 French Data Protection Act and the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679.

For more information


  •  September 2020: Schools and families received documents
  • September to November 2020: Classroom activities with the teacher
  • December 2020: Documents returned by post
  • Spring 2021: Analysis of results