Commenting on the Department for Education’s report on baseline assessment conducted by RBA, published today, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:

"This is a far from conclusive assessment of baseline. The DfE's report demonstrates only that baseline assessment meets the requirements set out for it by the DfE, which is no real statement at all. The test measures what children can do one-to-one across a small range of tasks that include counting and knowing their letter sounds, the kinds of activities that are easy to compartmentalise and measure. Every parent, and every early years teacher, knows that four year olds are capable of much more, and that early education is about much more than letters and numbers.

"What teachers tell us is that even where the tests take 20 minutes each, the additional time which is needed to collect each child, find an appropriate space, settle them and return them to the classroom, all adds up to days away from the children they're meant to be teaching, at a crucial period where the children are getting to know each other and the classroom routines.

"The research published today by UCL and commissioned by the NEU goes far deeper into the effects and experience of the test and shows that this Government’s obsession with turning every child into a number is clashing with a lack of trust amongst teachers. 83% believe it increases their workload, at a time when teachers are already stretched to the limit. (1)

"While Gavin Williamson is right to state that 'great teachers' are carrying out baseline assessment already, they also tell us that his baseline assessment doesn't give them the information they need. Instead they will carry out additional expert assessment in order to find out what the children can do in real classroom situations, and with their peers. On the one hand, government shouts about its commitment to reducing teacher workload, while on the other it introduces a test which increases workload while further decreasing teacher agency and professional expertise.

"The Department for Education is keen to give the impression that the introduction of a statutory Baseline will signal the end of an era in which testing throttled the primary sector. This is disingenuous. The opposition parties agree that the whole primary assessment system is ‘toxic’, but we see no evidence that the Government is even remotely on the same page."

Editor’s Note

  1. “I can’t read... I don’t know... I can’t do it... What does that mean? When can I go? Can I play yet?” - Research into the 2019 Pilot of Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA).  UCL Institute of Education. (by Guy Roberts-Holmes, Siew Fung Lee, Diana Sousa, Emma Jones). Published today: