Reception baseline assessment postponed in DfE U-turn

Two months ago the DfE rejected delaying the baseline test due to Covid – but now the launch is postponed by a year

Amy Gibbons

Coronavirus: The DfE has performed a U-turn on Reception baseline assessment

The government has announced today that it will be postponing introducing its controversial baseline assessment for four-and five-year-olds until 2021.

The decision to push forward September's start by a year comes only two months after the Department for Education rebuffed early years campaigners' calls for the baseline to be delayed "by at least a year", as learning had been "so disrupted" by the coronavirus.

At the time the DfE said it would push on and go ahead as planned in September, despite concern that this would "make life impossible for everybody".


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Now the DfE has had a rethink and will delay by a year. However, schools can still sign up to an "early adopter year" to "familiarise themselves with assessment materials" before the Reception baseline assessment (RBA) becomes statutory.

A DfE spokesperson said: "Due to the challenging circumstances faced by schools in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, statutory introduction of the RBA has been postponed to autumn 2021.

"Instead, schools have the opportunity to sign up to the RBA early adopter year."

Education secretary Gavin Williamson said on Monday that he would not abandon plans to introduce the RBA.

Asked if the government would "do the right thing" and scrap its intention to bring in the baseline assessment, Mr Williamson said simply: "No, we won't."

The assessment, which evaluates children's skills in English and maths, is designed to provide a baseline for the DfE in measuring pupils' progress between their first weeks in school and their final Sats results in Year 6.

Coronavirus: Reception baseline assessment 'would have been a complete distraction'

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said there would be "no value" to schools in signing up for the early adopter year.

"Schools need to be fully focused on supporting children's learning as they return to school, and baseline testing would have been a complete distraction," she said.

"Government must be honest with parents and pupils that while teachers will be doing their utmost to ensure the wellbeing of pupils and their learning, it won't be the same as we left it in March.

"Although the government has had the good sense to call off the tests, it is still encouraging schools to become 'early adopters' of the tests.

"There is no value to schools in doing this: baseline remains a pointless exercise in accountability, not a measure that can improve the quality of teaching and learning.

"Alongside many others in the early years sector, the union will continue to campaign for the complete withdrawal of Reception baseline assessment from the policy agenda."

Campaign group More Than A Score added: "We welcome the government's decision to delay the introduction of baseline assessment.

"We are glad they have listened, after intense campaigning from the More Than A Score coalition of parents, teachers, heads and education experts, who are united in condemning the introduction of these useless, harmful tests. Only the government persists in believing these tests have any worth.

"It’s time to call a halt to these insane tests for good.​"

Schools minister Nick Gibb said: "As we prepare for all children to return to school in September, I know teachers are working tirelessly to provide extra support to children to recover from the impact of coronavirus.

"In light of the circumstances, we have decided to postpone the statutory rollout of the Reception baseline assessment until September 2021, given that some schools may not have had the time they need to familiarise their teachers and staff with the process. 

"We remain committed to introducing the new assessment to have a fairer accountability system for schools, based on the educational progress their pupils make during their time at primary school.

"Schools will have the flexibility to sign up to the early adopter year to familiarise themselves with the content and administration, with the reassurance that this year’s data will not be used for accountability purposes."

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Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @tweetsbyames

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