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Schools should resist pressure to participate in Baseline Assessment pilots

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Wednesday, 6 June, 2018

The Department for Education have today issued an information leaflet for schools on the new Reception Baseline proposals.  It says that:

We will be inviting a sample of schools to take part in trialling the new assessment this autumn and all schools with reception classes will be invited to take part in the national pilot of the assessment, which will take place during the 2019/2020 academic year.

Early Education believes the proposals remain fundamentally flawed, and that schools should think carefully before considering volunteering to take part in the pilots en masse in 2019-20.  A pilot should be just that, and should not involve more schools than necessary to trial the validity, viability and value of the proposed baseline assessment.  It should not be rolled out on a large scale while significant questions remain as to its appropriateness.  Bear in mind that:

  • The tests will require at least 20 minutes of teacher/teaching assistant time per child to administer in the early weeks of a child's first term at school, disrupting normal routines and taking up better spent helping children to settle in to school and continue their learning.
  • The test has not been designed to benefit the children tested, their teachers or parents.  The leaflet says "The results of the assessment will not be used by government to track or label individual pupils,.... As we develop and trial the baseline assessment, we will explore whether any information it produces should be shared with schools and parents."  This demonstrates the inherent contradiction between DfE's recognition of the danger of such a flawed test being used to make claims about individual children's learning, and the likelihood that parents will expect to have access to their children's results.
  • The DfE has yet to provide robust evidence that testing children at age 4 provides an reliable baseline against which to measure their progress at the end of Year 6.  Nor is it clear how this data might be used for school accountability, following Damian Hinds' recent u-turn on school accountability.

In our view, these proposals - like the two previous attempts at introducing baseline assessment in Reception - will fail due to their own inherent flaws.  Schools which took place in the last baseline pilots in 2015 found that performing standardised national baseline assessments - in addition to the locally devised baseline assessments teachers undertook to inform their teaching - simply had a duplication of workload with no accompanying benefits.  On the basis of this previous experience, we hope schools will prioritise the needs of children settling into Reception over the pressure to participate in an ill-designed experiment in data collection.

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 www.early-education.org.uk