Baseline assessment is 'unethical, expensive and threatens children's mental health'

Early education experts set to tell MPs today that tests will push four-year-olds into 'world of high-stakes assessment'

Helen Ward

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The proposed baseline assessment for four-year-olds will be “damaging to young children”, early years experts have warned in a report being launched in parliament today.

The coalition group More than a Score will publish a dossier today saying under the government's plans young children “will be pushed into a world of high-stakes assessment, which is at odds with young children’s learning and development".

The tests, which the government has estimated will cost £10 million to develop, are due to be introduced in 2020.

The government says they will consist of “teacher-mediated assessment”, which will be carried out at the start of Reception year, as a way of providing a starting point from which to measure progress throughout primary school. 

But More than a Score – which represents 18 education and parents' organisations, including the NEU teaching union – says the proposed baseline assessment for four-year-olds will not provide a valid account of children’s learning and so cannot be used to measure progress.

“The government could do far more for children’s education by lifting them out of poverty than by spending £10 million on tests in which few education experts have any confidence,” said Mary Bousted, NEU joint general secretary.

Baseline assessment report

The dossier, Baseline Assessment: Why it doesn’t add up is due to be launched in parliament later today. 

It states: “We are not opposed to the assessment of children’s learning – on the contrary, we support it. Assessment is essential to good teaching and to helpful conversations between teachers and parents. But baseline testing is not good assessment."

It goes on to add that "enormous damage" can be done to children when adults believe that children's ability is fixed and can be defined at a young age.

Elaine Bennett from campaign group Keeping Early Years Unique, said: “Baseline testing is a pointless and expensive exercise which threatens children’s mental health at a crucial time in their development: a time where they are starting school, settling into new environments and making new relationships.

"It is irresponsible and unethical to put children in this position and to reduce them to a number when they have been in existence for 48-60 months.  The danger is that their score will see them grouped by ability from the very beginning.”

'Children learn through play'

Today's report comes after a separate study found that children are being grouped by "ability" in nursery classes.

Labour MP Tracy Brabin, shadow early years minister, said: “I’m pleased to be able to host so many passionate early years experts in parliament and welcome the new Baseline Assessment: it doesn’t add up research document.

"I believe children learn through play and creativity, not just through examinations. That’s why it’s great More than a Score is leading on this important work.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “The baseline assessment will help establish the progress made by pupils from reception to the end of key stage 2 and ensure schools are accountable for pupils’ progress as well as their attainment.

“Schools will be provided with the required materials and guidance to administer the assessment, which will be carried out in normal teaching time by a teacher or teaching assistant.”

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Helen Ward

Helen Ward

Helen Ward is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @teshelen

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