Millions have been wasted on failed baseline. It's time to listen to ATL members

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03 May 2016 by Anne Heavey
Last week, education secretary Nicky Morgan appeared before the Education Select Committee to defend some of the controversial proposals in the white paper, Educational Excellence Everywhere.

She refuted the accusation that the new assessment arrangements for key stage 1 and key stage 2 were “shambolic” (although she conceded that leaking the KS1 SPaG test online was “extremely regrettable”).

ATL members would disagree.  We have received a large volume of correspondence from parents, teachers and primary school leaders in recent months, expressing deep concerns that the new assessments are too demanding, too narrow and are setting children and teachers up to fail. The chaotic implementation of the new system is only making things worse.

We've been sending Nicky Morgan one of these letters each day, as a way to demonstrate this widely-felt anxiety. But it's hardly the first time our members have asked the Department for Education to rethink baseline.

Back in 2013, ATL pointed out that having multiple providers for the reception baseline was a recipe for disaster. Instead of listening, Nicky Morgan wasted millions - and has yet to concede that the baseline policy has utterly failed.

We will continue to highlight the findings of the research we jointly commissioned with the NUT that found the baseline to be a highly problematic and potentially damaging policy.

In addition, we have been putting pressure on Nicky Morgan and Nick Gibb to go back to the drawing board on primary school assessment as a whole.  We have raised concerns about proposed new assessment developments, including the times table check and year 7 re-sit.

And we regularly meet with DfE officials and ministers to discuss the specific concerns that our members continue to raise about the new key stage 1 and 2 assessments:

  • the assessments are based on a deeply flawed national curriculum
  • the expected standard is unclear
  • the content is developmentally inappropriate
  • schools have had inadequate time to implement changes
  • testing children on a six year curriculum, when they have been taught only two years, is unfair
  • children with SEND are let down by the current system.

We do not think that scrapping the baseline as an accountability measure, moving submission dates back or cancelling the KS1 SPaG test goes far enough – Mary Bousted has called for the entire assessment programme to be scrapped.

It is time for the DfE to listen to parents, teachers and leaders, go back to the drawing board and work with us to create a system that works for all.

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