Headteachers do not want to see four-year-olds tested and are concerned that a new baseline assessment may encourage “too academic and too formal a curriculum” too early.
The National Association of Head Teachers' response to the government's consultation on the future of primary assessment states that it “cautiously supports” the introduction of a new baseline assessment in reception.
But it has highlighted a range of issues it wants to see addressed if the proposal goes ahead. The NAHT supports the assessment if, as the government has proposed, it is accompanied by scrapping Sats at the end of key stage 1.
It says that it does not envisage a “formal test” but recommends looking at how using teachers can observe and interact with children to assess them.
The NAHT says any baseline assessment must not be used to set targets or track individual pupils – or used to hold early years practitioners to account.
“There is an apprehension that a new baseline might encourage too academic and too formal a curriculum too early and may even impact on nursery provision,” the response states.
And it adds that some heads are concerned about the validity and reliability of a baseline assessment and the workload involved.
“All of these legitimate points must be considered in the development of a new baseline and addressed with evidence, clear communication and transparency,” the union continues.
The government’s previous attempt to introduce a baseline assessment failed last year when the assessments from the three approved providers were found to be not comparable.
The NAHT also says that the results of a school’s baseline assessment should not be made available to Ofsted and Regional Schools Commissioners, with only local and national baseline data being published.
The government has said measuring children’s progress through primary school is a fairer way of assessing school effectiveness than simply looking at how well children do in the Sats at the end of Year 6, and that a starting point, or baseline, is needed in order to measure progress.
It suggests Reception year is the best place for this baseline because it gives credit to schools for their work with pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2.
But a survey carried out by the NfER yesterday found the majority of teachers thought Year 1 would be a better starting point.
And there remains widespread opposition to baseline among early years organisations and classroom unions.
The ATL pointed out in its response to the consultation, which closed today, that the vast majority of early years practitioners carry out their own assessments of pupils when they start school.
It said that this good practice “should be preserved and supported by the DfE, rather than sabotaged with an ill-conceived accountability assessment”.