Banning teachers’ preferred method of baseline assessment will relieve 'burden', says minister

Early years minister Nadhim Zahawi explains why teacher observations have been ruled out for the new Reception baseline assessment

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Banning teachers’ preferred method of baseline assessment will relieve the “burden" facing the profession, the early years minister has claimed.

The Department for Education wants to introduce a baseline assessment for four- and five-year-olds in 2020. The baseline would then be used to measure pupils’ progress during primary school.

During a previous attempt to introduce a baseline in 2016, around 12,000 schools signed up for a teacher observation-based assessment created by Early Excellence.

But in April 2016 the government abandoned its plans to use the baseline as a progress measure, when it was discovered that the three approved assessments were not comparable.

And it has since ruled out observation-based assessment as it looks for organisations to develop the new baseline assessment – a process that is estimated will cost around £10 million.

The new assessment will include an assessment of communication, language and literacy, as well as mathematics. Bidders for the contract are being asked to explore ways to assess children’s “self-regulation”.

Tracy Brabin, the shadow early years minister, asked why observational assessment had been ruled out, in a House of Commons question yesterday.

'A greater burden' in baseline assessment

Nadhim Zahawi, early years minister, replied that the data from the baseline needed to correlate with key stage 2 assessment data so that “like-for-like” comparisons could be made.

“To achieve this, observational assessments would represent a greater burden for teachers due to the significant additional moderation requirements to provide the consistent baseline for comparing school-level progress nationally,” he replied.

He added that observational assessment would remain as part of the early years foundation stage profile – the assessment carried out at the end of Reception year.

Early Excellence has previously said it will not bid to run the assessment, saying the proposals are "inaccurate, invalid and unusable”.

In response to a second question, Mr Zahawi said that no ministers or department officials had had discussions with contractors in which details of the baseline assessment were discussed before the specification and contract were made public.

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