Need to know: Reception baseline assessment

The new assessment of 4 and 5-year-olds is due to be piloted this autumn

Helen Ward

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From 2020, Reception teachers will have to assess the maths and language skills of every 4 and 5-year-old child starting school.

The test framework was published earlier this month, and it may allay some fears that baseline could lead to children being labelled as “failures” at an early age.

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Unlike other statutory tests, this assessment will not have a pass mark – and teachers are being told not to prepare children for it. And teachers will not be given pupils' individual scores.

Instead, it is being designed to provide a baseline for the DfE in measuring children’s progress between their first weeks in school and their final Sats results in Year 6.

Here are the details that teachers need to know:


What will the baseline assessment actually assess?

The assessment will evaluate children’s skills in maths and language, communication and literacy (LCL). A proposal to assess children’s self-regulation – which includes the ability to focus on a task – has been dropped after trials.


Will the baseline assessment be like the Sats?

The assessment is more similar to the phonics check than the Sats. It will be carried out one-to-one with a teacher or teaching assistant who will record the children’s results on an online scoring system.


When will I have to do start doing the baseline assessment ?

The assessment is due to become statutory in autumn 2020, but a voluntary pilot scheme begins in September 2019, which schools have been invited to sign up for. Schools have been emailed by NFER – which is running the tests – with information on how to sign up for the pilot. The recruitment window closes on 5 April 2019.


When will children be assessed?

Children should be assessed within the first six weeks of their start in school, regardless of when they join the class.


How will children be assessed?

The assessment is a task-based assessment using physical objects such as plastic shapes and picture cards. Children will respond to the tasks they are given through speaking, pointing or moving objects.

The maths tasks will cover: early number, early addition and subtraction, mathematical language and early understanding of shape.

The LCL tasks will cover: early vocabulary, phonological awareness, early reading and early comprehension.


How long will it take to assess each child?

The assessment will take up to 20 minutes – but can teachers can pause and restart the tests.

The assessment includes a "routing" system which means that the tasks children are given will vary depending on their responses. This means that some pupils will get fewer activities than others.


What is the top mark?

The total number of marks available is 45, but the routing system means that the number of marks available to each pupil varies. All pupils will be presented with activities worth at least 26 marks.


When will teachers get the results?

Teachers will not be given children’s individual scores, these will be kept in the national pupil database and used as a starting point for measuring a child’s progress during their primary school years.

Schools will get a narrative statement describing how each pupil performed.


How do I prepare children for tests?

There is no need for children to prepare for the assessment, either in a pre-school setting or at home.


And what about preparing teachers?

Training materials will be provided in the summer term which will give teachers time to run through the physical materials and type of questions they will be asking. This training will take an hour.


Are there modified tests?

The assessment has been designed so that pupils with special educational needs and disabilities and those learning English as an additional language can take part in the standard assessment.

There will be modified resources for pupils with a visual impairment.


What has the reaction been to the baseline assessment?

The assessment has been supported by headteachers’ unions who say progress is a fairer way of judging schools than attainment – but it has attracted widespread criticism from classroom unions, early years practitioners and assessment experts.

Concerns about the latest proposals for a single, statutory assessment have included the reliability of the test, the long timespan that the progress measure covers, concerns it could lead to labelling children by “ability” at a young age and the ethics of asking teachers to carry out an assessment which will not support a child’s learning.

Some, but not all, of these concerns may have been addressed now the details of the test have been revealed.

The government has said that the assessment is a step towards ensuring that there is a "fair and accurately measure" of how effectively schools help children to progress.

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Helen Ward

Helen Ward

Helen Ward is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @teshelen

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