You've been speaking out on baseline. The NEU would make your voice stronger

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27 February 2017 by Anne Heavey
In the next few weeks we expect the Government to publish the consultation on assessment in primary schools that Justine Greening promised back in October.

We believe that this consultation will ask for feedback about the “best place to start measuring progress” and we are concerned that the DfE might again decide that this is in reception class, and propose a rehashed version of its discredited baseline assessment scheme.

At ATL we have huge concerns about reception baseline assessment. We think it is a bad idea. And we are not alone in thinking this.

Working with the NUT and other members of the Better Without Baseline campaign group, we have made a strong case against the instruction of the reception baseline assessment. In fact, we achieved a major success, when the DfE conceded that the three approved assessment schemes were not comparable and pulled the policy.

The research that ATL and NUT jointly commissioned from Alice Bradbury and Guy Roberts-Holmes at UCL IoE found many problems with the baseline concept and generated huge media interest in the campaign to scrap the baseline. The research also won a prestigious BERA impact award.

If you can find the time the full report is an essential read.

Despite this overwhelming evidence, the DfE have failed to address the concerns that we have raised and appear to be pushing ahead with another flawed baseline policy. Now more than ever, we need to work even more closely with colleagues in other unions to get answers to the following questions:

  • What evidence is there that it is possible to make a valid assessment of attainment at age 4 that can be used as part of a progress measure?
  • How will the DfE ensure that any baseline assessment introduced does not distort good early years practice?
  • Is it possible to introduce an additional observational assessment that does not generate teacher workload?
  • How can the damaging, yet inevitable, reality of low expectations for children that receive low scores be avoided? This is especially crucial for summer born pupils and those with additional needs.
  • In a time of extreme funding restraint in schools, can a new costly assessment be justified?
  • What alternatives are there to reception baseline assessment for school accountability?

There is no question that we stand the best chance of getting answers to these questions by speaking with a clear strong voice.

In just a few weeks' time, ATL members will have the chance to vote on whether or not to form a new National Education Union with the NUT. With around half a million members, the NEU would have a clearer, stronger voice - not just on this vital issue, but on many others.

When our joint research with the NUT, and the outcry from our combined membership, caused the government to scrap the first version of baseline, we achieved a major success. The NEU, along with continued close working with colleagues in other unions, represents a chance to win further success for the benefit of our members and their students.

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