EYFS: 3 reasons we said 'no' to the baseline pilot

Inaccurate data and increased workload are among the reasons why this head of early years has shunned the baseline pilot

Early years: The Reception baseline test is being piloted in schools

An invitation letter recently landed in my pigeon hole. It asked if my school, or rather our Reception classes, wanted to be part of the baseline pilot.

I was wary. I have read all the debate on the issue on social media and taken part in discussions in local forums.

I decided to discuss it with my headteacher.


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I am in a fortunate position in that I have a very supportive headteacher, who trusts my judgement and who fully supports my decisions to go with the best interests of the children.

He did, however, encourage me to think about it carefully and to consider overall advantages and disadvantages to the children and school.

Naturally, I gave this quite a bit of thought and we had a good team discussion.  

A decision was then made: we would absolutely not be joining the pilot.

And here’s why.

Baseline advantages?

As I weighed up the pros and cons, the most obvious (and perhaps only) advantage for me was being part of the first cohort of teachers and schools as a pilot, which would hopefully offer an opportunity to give our feedback and perspective as the teachers on the ground carrying out these tests.  

Unfortunately, part of me does question whether our voices will actually be heard, given that many teachers and parents have shouted loudly and passionately in the past about the same issue and have not been listened to yet. Has anything really changed?

As for disadvantages, they are multiple.

1. Poor data

Firstly, there is the issue of the data, which isn’t really going to help us in our immediate teaching.   

How valuable is this data going to be to a teacher on a practical level, planning for individual children? What can it really offer that is superior to skilled teachers and teaching assistants?

Real interactions with my children are a far richer source of information. 

2. Inappropriate testing

This type of testing is completely inappropriate.  Anyone who has spent time with four-year-olds knows that if we can rely on anything, it is the unpredictability of young children’s answers. They are unlikely to give you the same answers twice about their choice of lunch, let alone questions for baseline.

So for me, there is a real risk that we will have unreliable data.

We would, therefore, still need to work with anecdotal observations to gain an accurate picture of the full range of children’s skills and capabilities. This means that the baseline would not replace our assessment in the autumn term, but add to our workload.

3. Workload

Finally, and most importantly, this is a really crucial time for our youngest children.  A time when children need and deserve an adult’s time and full attention to support them in a huge transition.

Some children’s needs will be physical, some will be more emotional, but they will all need guidance in one way or another.  

This adult support is potentially compromised if one teacher is down the corridor with their "ticklist" of children. Adults will be stretched at a time when they are most needed.

I doubt there will be extra funding to provide additional cover, therefore, I am assuming that this will be the scenario. It is not one that I consider to offer the best experience to our children as they settle into school.

  

What I’d really like to be offered by the government is the equivalent value in funding. Because like many schools, we need more resources much more than we need an inaccurate and ultimately damaging baseline test.

Helen Pinnington is early years foundation lead at St Thomas More’s Catholic Primary School in Bedhampton, Hampshire

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