DfE planning to spend £10m on Reception baseline test

Department for Education says it wants to see an assessment of pupils' 'self-regulation', alongside communication, literacy and maths

Helen Ward

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The new baseline assessments for primary school pupils will cost up to £10 million to develop, the government has revealed.

The Department for Education has also confirmed that it does not want the assessment to be based on teacher observations – the basis of the most popular baseline assessment chosen by teachers in 2015-16.

The information is contained in a tender posted by the DfE for a Reception baseline development contract worth an estimated £9.8 million.

The disclosure comes after Tes revealed that the government estimated it had spent £44 million on the statutory testing system for primary schools in 2016-17.

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, told Tes at the time that the current assessment system did not represent value for money and “to seek to introduce two new costly assessments [the baseline and the times tables check] at a time that schools are in the midst of a funding crisis would be a grave error”.

The government has said that if the Reception baseline is introduced, then key stage 1 tests will be scrapped.

The contract to develop the baseline assessment will include any necessary trialling of material in the 2018-19 academic year, followed by a national pilot in the 2019-20 academic year, then two years of statutory delivery of the assessment to all Reception pupils in England in 2020-21 and 2021-22.

Focus on 'self-regulation'

The tender notice says that the supplier may plan to adapt an existing assessment or develop a new one, “as long as they can meet the delivery timeline requirements”.

A previous attempt to introduce a Reception baseline fell through when the three approved assessments were found to be incomparable.

These three assessments were BASE, a computer-based assessment from the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM) at Durham University; the National Foundation for Educational Research Reception baseline assessment, which used a combination of tasks and observations; and EExBA from Early Excellence training organisation, based on teacher observations. All three assessments are still available.

The new assessment should “include an age-appropriate assessment of communication, language and literacy, as well as mathematics”, says the tender notice. 

In line with previously announced plans, the DfE is also asking suppliers to explore ways to assess “self-regulation” – for example, persistence with a task.

More details of the contract are expected to be published next week.

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Helen Ward

Helen Ward

Helen Ward is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @teshelen

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