The new Baseline means testing four- and five-year-olds when they first start school. It was tried previously in September 2015.  It was a failure. Now the Government is trying again – with a voluntary pilot this Autumn, followed by a full-scale launch in September 2020.

The pilot is large-scale, but voluntary, with only two-thirds of eligible primary schools choosing to take part. In 2015 more than 2,000 schools chose not to pilot Baseline. This time, more than 5,000 chose not to sign up. And, thanks to campaigning, a further 200 schools changed their minds and dropped out of the pilot after previously signing up.

In a recent study conducted by Dr Alice Bradbury of the Institute of Education, headteachers were overwhelmingly critical in their views: only 8% provided positive responses while 86% of comments were categorised as negative or qualified negative.

What is Baseline assessment?

Baseline assessment is an accountability measure.  Children will be tested at entry to Reception, and again at 11, when they take KS2 SATs. These tests will produce two scores, which will be compared with each other. Schools will be held accountable for the progress that children make, compared with their peers in other schools. Teachers too will inevitably be assessed against these accountability measures.

Baseline is intended to replace Key Stage 1 SATs (this is the basis on which it is supported by the NAHT.) But the danger is that rather than lifting the accountability burden from schools, Baseline will actually extend that burden into the Early Years.

In a YouGov Survey of primary headteachers (February 2019):

73% believe Baseline assessment is an unfair way to measure schools' future progress.

Teachers have tried and tested ways of assessing children. They do not need Baseline.

Too Much Testing - SATs

High-stakes testing and its link to league tables places teachers and students under huge pressure to achieve Government targets. England’s primary assessment system has led to a narrow curriculum, dominated by teaching to the test, which denies children a broad and stimulating education and has a serious impact on their wellbeing. Pupils with special educational needs and disabilities are particularly badly affected.

83% think SATs have a negative impact on pupils’ wellbeing

There is a consensus among teachers, parents and opposition political parties that there is too much testing in our primary schools and the NEU is lobbying politicians to push for a change to the broken assessment system.

  • NEU members describe how SATs are not fit for purpose.

    SATs give no opportunity for children to demonstrate what they DO understand, testing only what is easy to test. The system that we are putting our children through is not equipping them for the world outside of school.

Too Much Testing : The Alternative

What is the alternative to high-stakes testing?

The NEU alternative is based around a core set of principles that aims to put children's learning at the heart of education, in place of the current system which values only that which can be measured via testing. 

The principles: 

  •  Abolish all national, standardised primary tests: the proposed Reception Baseline Assessment, Year One phonics check,  the multiplication tables check and KS1 and KS2 SATs.
  •  Formal testing should be used where it is appropriate to  fulfil educational purposes and to complement teachers’ judgement – but it should not be allowed to define what education is about.
  • Test results for individual schools should not be published  or used to create league tables.
  • Trust education professionals to assess children in a way which supports children’s learning and enables intelligent accountability that does not rely on test scores.
  • Combine trust in professionalism with a recognition of the responsibility of professionals to report fully to parents and other stakeholders on children’s progress and achievement.
  •  All assessment should relate to clear goals and purposes, established at national level through inclusive processes  of consultation.
  • The alternative should be based on values of well-being,  social justice and economic and social renewal.

Assessment resources

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Councillors Network

The NEU Councillors Network is a partnership between local councillors of all parties and the National Education Union, to shape the future of education.

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