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Why government request for early years experts to develop Reception Baseline is too little too late

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Wednesday, 3 July, 2019

We have sent the following Letter to the editor, TES regarding Standards & Testing Agency's recent tender for early years expert resource to assist with the development of the Reception Baseline Assessment:

We the undersigned organisations welcome any steps by government to engage early years experts to inform the development and implementation of policy.  We frequently provide our advice and expertise to the DfE for free through discussions with officials and written submissions, and we take on paid contracts to support the delivery of key government policies where we feel we can do so in keeping with our organisations’ missions and values.  However, we note that the DfE has recently issued an Invitation to Tender (ITT) to acquire Early Years Experts on the Reception Baseline Assessment to be developed within the Standards Testing Agency, and on this occasion we felt it important to make a public statement as to why we will not be tendering for this piece of work.

The DfE is asking for early years expertise after having set the parameters of the Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA) in a way that is simply not compatible with children’s best interests and good early years pedagogy.  We would not wish to be associated with this flawed policy or to suggest that it can be acceptably mitigated by minor tweaks to the assessment items or other aspects of delivery.

The RBA, which will be administered to 4- year-olds in the first few weeks of Reception, is a tool for accountability so that schools can demonstrate ‘value added’ between Reception and Year 6. The Assessment is not a tool for informing and developing quality pedagogy, nor will it provide reliable data that is to benefit children. The Assessment offers no formative data that will aid teachers in their pedagogical practice. The tests may also be damaging, being undertaken at a crucial time when children should be settling into their new learning environment.

We support quality early years education for all children and offer support to practitioners in developing effective teaching and learning practices that will support children’s holistic development. This includes formative assessment based on observations of children that enable teachers to get to know and understand the children they work with in order to inform how to support children’s effective early learning. We will continue to give expert advice to our members and the wider early years community in support of quality pedagogy. However, we are unable to offer our expertise to government to support an Assessment that is ultimately flawed and in tension with these core objectives.

Yours faithfully

Beatrice Merrick, Chief Executive, Early Education
Verity Campbell-Barr, Chair of Trustees, Early Education
Jan Georgeson, Chair, TACTYC
Liz Bayram, Chief Executive, PACEY
Neil Leitch, Chief Executive, Early Years Alliance
Carolyn Silberfeld, Chair/Director, Early Childhood Studies Degrees Network
Isabel Davis, National Rep for Early Years on the Teaching School Council
Anna Ephgrave and Elaine Bennett, Keep Early Years Unique
Robin Duckett, Director, Sightlines Initiative