Exclusive: Baseline 'unfair', say three-quarters of primary heads

YouGov poll also finds that 74% of primary heads believe it is impossible to reliably assess four-year-olds

early years

Almost three-quarters (73 per cent) of primary leaders say that baseline tests are an unfair way to measure progress in schools, a new poll has found.

The poll, carried out by YouGov for campaign group More than a Score, also found 96 per cent felt they should not be preparing children for assessment in their first few weeks and 74 per cent felt it was not possible to reliably assess four-year-olds.

The poll findings, based on representative sample size of 230 primary school leaders, come as the government has said it will invite schools to sign up for the baseline pilot from Friday.

Nancy Stewart, of early years teacher trainers association TACTYC speaking on behalf of More than a Score, said: "It's time for the government to listen to parents, teachers, heads and education experts. They know children best and they know standardised assessment for four-year-olds makes no sense.

"Like Sats, the baseline test will bring extra workload for teachers, as well as stress for children right at the start of their school experience when settling in happily and confidently should have first priority. And they will bring pressure to focus relentlessly on narrow skills from the moment these very young children enter the school gates."


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The baseline pilot will run in September 2019. The government plans to make the assessment statutory in September 2020.

The assessment is being introduced in order to provide a baseline for measuring progress from Reception to Year 6.

The government has said that if the baseline does go ahead, the key stage 1 Sats, which are currently used as the starting point for measuring progress, will be scrapped. The progress measure is published at school level and not for individuals.

The baseline assessment is being developed by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER). The assessment will take around 20 minutes. It consists of interactive tasks that cover language, communication and literacy, and early maths skills.

It has been supported by the two headteachers' unions, the Association of School and College Leaders and the NAHT, on the understanding that it will be a "light touch" check.

But there has been widespread concern about the baseline with more than 44,000 people signing a petition on the More than a Score website calling for schools minister Nick Gibb to scrap it.

The NUT section of the NEU teaching union voted at its conference last year to explore ways of stopping the 2019 pilot.

And today Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance (formerly the Pre-School Learning Alliance), described the decision to push ahead with the pilot as “incredibly disappointing”. He said: “Rather than looking to assess children across a broad range of areas of learning and development, these reductive, inconsistent and often-unreliable tests instead take a narrow focus on easy-to-measure skills such as numeracy and literacy.”

Nick Gibb, school standards minister, said: “The reception baseline assessment is a hugely important step forward in ensuring that we can fairly and accurately measure how effectively schools are helping children to progress while helping to reduce the burden of assessment for teachers."

 

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