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DfE decision to press on with Reception baseline is fundamentally flawed: here's why

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Thursday, 27 February, 2020

Ministers have today confirmed that baseline assessment will be roilled out in Reception from September 2020. This is a fundamentally flawed decision on many levels

Duplication of work

The press release claims that:

a validity report based on a national pilot confirmed that the new assessments provide an accurate assessment of a pupils’ starting point from which to measure the progress they make in primary school.

and that:

The reception baseline assessment has been designed to reflect the types of assessment that most schools already carry out in reception.

Yet the validity report itself says: 

This assessment is not designed to be used for any purpose other than the progress measure. It is intended to assess a child’s early literacy, communication and language and mathematics to form the start of the cohort-level progress measure. The raw scores are not intended to be used for any diagnostic purposes or outcome measures. This has been communicated clearly in the information published by DfE about the assessment. 

In other words, the government's baseline assessment CANNOT be used by schools for their own baseline purposes, and schools will therefore have to continue their own baseline assessments IN ADDITION.  This is a significant additional workload at a time when teachers want to be helping children settle in and start to learn.

Contradictory policies on workload

Reception baseline assessment (RBA) is being introduced at the same time as revisions to the EYFS are being proposed, supposedly to reduce workload on unnecessary tasks and allow teachers to focus directly on supporting children's learning.  The additional workload which RBA will impose goes directly against that policy, and has no direct benefit for children's learning.  The DfE's argument that it will reduce workload by allowing the removal of KS1 SATS is doubly flawed:

  1. reducing the workload of Y2 teachers does not help Reception teachers' workload, and
  2. KS1 SATS will not be removed until 2022-23 at the earliest.

Not supported by the evidence

Recent research from NEU about teachers' experiences of the pilot showed that the RBA raised huge concerns from teachers about its impact on children and on teachers' ability to get on with the job of teaching.  BERA's Baseline Without Basis report raised significant concerns about the validity of the premises on which RBA is founded.  There are also significant concerns about the legal basis on which children's data will be collected and the implications of this being added to the National Pupil Database, and lack of parental awareness of these issues.

We will continue to speak out against poor policy making and flawed decisions.  Government has tried to introduce baseline assessments in reception before and failed.  The weight of evidence suggests that sooner or later this attempt will fail too.


Notes to editors: 

Early Education (The British Association for Early Childhood Education) is the leading independent national charity for early years practitioners and parents, campaigning for the right of all children to education of the highest quality. Founded in 1923, it has members in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and provides a national voice on matters that relate to effective early childhood education and care of young children from birth to eight. The organisation supports the professional development of practitioners through publications, training, conferences, seminars and access to a national and regional branch network. For more information on the work of Early Education visit