Opposition to baseline testing intensifies as schools urged to participate in pilot

Karen Faux
Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Will participating in a baseline pilot be a good use of teachers' time or simply distract from the important process of getting children settled into the Reception year?

Despite strong sector opposition, the Government is pressing ahead with its baseline assessment.

All schools with Reception classes have been invited to take part in its voluntary, national pilot of the assessment, which will test four- and five-year-olds on their language, communication, literacy and early maths.

Rolling out from September, the pilot will be run by National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), which was awarded the contract last April to design and deliver the baseline assessment that becomes statutory next year (September 2020).

According to guidance for schools on the Baseline, children will not ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ the assessment – it will be used to provide a ‘snapshot’ of where they are when they start school in Reception and a measure to see how they have progressed throughout primary school.

Key Stage 1 tests will effectively be scrapped and made non-statutory in 2023.

Baseline assessment has been introduced and scrapped twice before in England.

Baseline tests will have dubious validity

Assessment and accountability

School standards minister Nick Gibb said: 'The Reception baseline assessment is an important step forward as it will provide a starting point from which to measure children’s progress during their whole time in primary school while reducing the burden of assessment for teachers.  

'This is an opportunity for schools to familiarise themselves with this new assessment and help us make sure it works for children and teachers ahead of its scheduled statutory introduction in autumn 2020.'

Sector fights back
Writing on twitter, early years consultant Di Chilvers said – ‘has anything been reported from the baseline trial Schools and the evaluation? Have parents been consulted and informed? This Government has totally lost the plot...dictating policy regardless, listening to no one and disrespecting children and parents’.

Chief executive of the Early Years Alliance Neil Leitch said, ‘It’s incredibly disappointing, though unfortunately not surprising, that the Government has chosen to push ahead with the roll-out of baseline testing despite widespread concerns from educators, parents and the wider early years and primary sectors.

‘Rather than looking to assess children across a broad range of areas of learning and development, these reductive, inconsistent and often-unreliable tests instead take a narrow focus on easy-to-measure skills such as numeracy and literacy.’

‘As Government has itself admitted, this policy is all about assessing the effectiveness of schools, rather than supporting children’s early learning and development. As a result, we have a system about to be introduced which is liable to place undue pressure on young children at the very start of their educational journeys, without any real benefit to them at all. 

‘We urge the Government to rethink the introduction of these tests and will continue to oppose this policy in partnership with our sector and union colleagues.’


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