Assessment has always been a major feature of education in the early years. It has been a planning tool, employed internally by schools and teachers to develop forms of curriculum appropriate to pupils' needs. It has been formative rather than summative, judgemental rather than statistical, holistic rather than incremental, building on strengths rather than identifying weaknesses.The National Curriculum, however, with its elaborate arrangements for assessment, has imposed a different assessment model on early education. This model is incremental, summative, externally directed and designed to measure rather than to guide the performance of pupils, teachers and schools. There is thus a conflict between these two approaches to assessment.In this context, Assessment in Early Childhood Education has three objectives; to identify the essential features of forms of assessment which will be genuinely supportive of education in the early years; to help teachers in their search for such forms; and to evaluate the likely impact of the systems of external assessment currently being imposed.