Baseline assessment

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02 November 2016
ATL advised members to not to use any of the new baseline assessment systems introduced in September 2016 and to instead use their pre-existing entry arrangements.

After ATL and AMiE members raised concerns around the reception baseline assessment earlier this year, the government scrapped the assessment for accountability purposes and acknowledged that three different assessment systems by three different providers could not easily be compared.

However, despite the fact that there is no longer a requirement for schools to carry out baseline assessment, the three systems did remain in place for September 2016 and we are aware that some schools chose to sign up. ATL is concerned that the DfE will interpret this sign-up as demand for a baseline and push ahead without addressing a wide range of problems with this form of assessment.

What should I do?

ATL has emailed primary schools to urge them not to not use any of the systems on offer and to instead have confidence in their pre-existing entry assessment arrangements. Schools may wish to consider how they could continue to use the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile, even though it is also non-statutory, to support assessment practices in reception. ATL does not believe any of the current baseline products can offer accurate, reliable or fair data that can be used for school accountability.

You can read more about baseline assessment and the findings of research we carried out with the NUT, below.

What is baseline assessment?

In September 2015 many children starting primary school underwent 'baseline assessment'. Baseline assessment is part of a new primary school accountability system that seeks to establish "value added" from age 4 to 11.

The baseline assessment results in a single score for each child. This score will be a 'baseline'. The results of tests that children take in later years will be compared with their baseline score and their school will be judged according to the progress the children have made.

From 2022 Schools will either be measured on this new progress measure or the attainment measure, currently set at 85% of children meeting floor standards.

What does the research tell us about baseline assessment?

ATL and NUT jointly commissioned research into the implementation of the baseline assessment in September 2015. This research was undertaken by Dr Alice Bradbury and Dr Guy Roberts-Holmes of the Institute of Education, UCL.

The findings, as seen in the executive summary, could not be clearer:

  1. Teachers and school leaders have serious doubts as to the accuracy of the assessment and its use in measuring progress, in relation to all three baseline providers. Only 7.7% of respondents to the survey agreed the data was an 'accurate and fair way to assess children' because of the wide range of variables in the assessment process.
  2. Many teachers and school leaders doubt the use of measuring progress from Reception to Year 6 given the problems of assessing accurately at age four and the variability of children's patterns of progress and development. Only 6.7% of survey respondents agreed it was 'a good way to assess how primary schools perform'.
  3. The majority of schools already used informal on-entry assessments to plan teaching and to identify children with particular needs; the Baseline Assessment is not seen as an improvement on these methods.
  4. Most schools selected the Early Excellence Baseline due to the similarity to the existing EYFS and the promotion of this scheme as 'early years friendly'; some felt under pressure to do so from their local authorities or because other providers were removed.
  5. Baseline Assessment has an impact on teaching and learning, including encouraging the practice of 'stopping teaching' and was not seen as helping teachers get to know pupils better.
  6. Baseline Assessment has little use in terms of identification of additional needs.
  7. There is a significant effect on teachers' workloads particularly where schools are continuing to use their old on-entry assessment system which fits better with data tracking systems or with the existing EYFS Profile. Survey data suggests this workload effect occurs with all of the three providers.
  8. Few schools plan to provide information on Baseline Assessment scores to parents, due to their concerns. A limited sample of parents revealed that most are unaware of the assessment; some are content that the assessment will help teachers gets to know children better but others have concerns about accuracy and the age of the children.
  9. School leaders are uncomfortable with the use of private providers and the related marketing that they have received, and feel vulnerable at a time when there has been a great deal of policy change related to assessment.

Find out more about Baseline Assessment on the Better Without Baseline website and read more about the research in our press release.

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