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New report on reception baseline assessment

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Tuesday, 3 July, 2018

We welcome the new report from the British Educational Research Association (BERA) which scrutinises the validity of the proposed new Reception Baseline Assessment in England.

It confirms that testing 4-year-olds cannot be accurate or fair because:

  • just a few month's difference in age in the early years produces pronounced developmental differences, yet plans for the RBA do not take this properly into account
  • Pupil cohorts within primary schools are statistically small, and often have uneven distributions of younger and older children. This makes it hard to draw valid comparisons between schools.
  • Pupil mobility, teacher turnover, and the likelihood of a change in head teacher will all muddy the issue of accountability – either pupil data will be missing, or schools may be held to account for pupils they have not taught continuously in the seven years since the data was first collected
  • It is widely recognised that a range of contextual factors – such as parents’ educational levels, family income and having English as an additional language – affect both attainment and relative attainment. However, under the government's current proposals, no such contextual factors will be taken into account when making comparisons between schools. This approach cannot be fair or useful.

Beatrice Merrick, Chief Executive of Early Education, said:

The BERA report is the most comprehensive review to date of the evidence base for the proposed Reception Baseline Assessment.  It is sheer folly for the government to persist with plans to introduce a Reception Baseline Assessment if it cannot provide valid and reliable data.  Holding schools to account on the basis of flawed data will do nothing to improve standards in schools.  It is not fair on children new to the Reception year to have their learning disrupted by a pointless test, which distracts teachers from getting children settled in and continuing their learning, and provides no useful information to improve teaching.  We hope government will give this review extensive consideration before deciding whether to press ahead with their proposals.

The full review can be downloaded from the BERA website.

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