The UK's largest education union has thrown its weight behind a campaign to ditch the new Reception baseline assessment amid "unprecedented disruption" caused by the coronavirus crisis.
The NEU teaching union has signed an open letter to schools minister Nick Gibb, calling for the "immediate cancellation" of plans to introduce the assessment, as it would be an "additional and needless burden in the new school year".
The news comes after Beatrice Merrick, chief executive of the Early Education charity, told Tes that implementing the Reception baseline assessment (RBA) in September would "make life impossible for everybody".
Coronavirus: 'Delay baseline tests and EYFS reforms'
The Department for Education said it intends for the assessment to go ahead as planned, although this will be kept under review in light of the coronavirus crisis.
Fears over Reception baseline assessment
The open letter, published today by campaign group More Than A Score, calls on the DfE to "urgently" reconsider its plans, arguing that introducing the RBA in the autumn would be a "huge distraction" to teachers at a time when their "main focus" should be on building relationships and helping children to catch up on missed learning opportunities.
It states: "After a period of unprecedented disruption from Covid-19, the priority must be to give these small children a sound start at school.
"They will have missed a great deal of the necessary practical and emotional preparation including transition visits and, potentially, a whole term or more in nursery.
"The government's baseline assessment process will be a huge distraction, especially in terms of the extra workload for teachers at a time when their main focus should be building relationships and giving children the opportunity to catch up on the many learning opportunities they will have missed.
"The government should trust early years teachers to carry out their own formative baselines when children start school – as they always have done.
"Over a half of all primary schools did not complete the baseline pilot. They will have had no experience of administering the tests and this will be an additional and needless burden in the new school year."
The letter has been signed by Kevin Courtney and Mary Bousted, joint general secretaries of the NEU; Gemma Moss, former president of the British Educational Research Association (BERA); Beatrice Merrick, chief executive of Early Education; and other key voices in the early years sector.
It adds: "Children deserve the best possible start to school. We hope, in these unprecedented times, that you urgently reconsider your plans."