There is now a consensus that there is too much testing in our primary schools. The NEU is campaigning for a change to the broken assessment system. Find out more:

The alternative



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  • Test results for individual schools should not be published  or used to create league tables.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.

Baseline assessment

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 taking place this academic year, 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.

In a YouGov Survey of primary headteachers (February 2019) 73% believed 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.


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

  • 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.

Assessment resources

Assessment resources for councillors

NEU Councillors Network logo

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.

  • Advice members at indie sector conf 2018
    Baseline FAQs

    Answers to questions about Baseline for organisers and activists

  • Blog Child with keyboard
    We don't need a national times tables test

    We don't need another new assessment at a huge cost to schools to 'prove' that learning the times tables is an important part of the primary school curriculum, says Anne Heavey.