9 in 10 teachers say baseline test is 'waste of time'

The vast majority of Reception teachers believe new RBA is not as useful as their own observations, survey suggests

Amy Gibbons

Primary school assessment: the key changes for KS1 and KS2

Nearly nine in 10 Reception teachers think the controversial new baseline assessment for four- and five-year-olds is a waste of teaching time, new research suggests.

And the vast majority (85 per cent) believe the tests are not as useful as their own classroom-based observations, according to a survey by campaign group More Than a Score.

The Reception baseline assessment (RBA), which is designed to measure children's English and maths skills when they start primary school, became compulsory this year after its planned introduction in September 2020 was delayed because of the Covid crisis.

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The government has said the test should take up to 20 minutes to complete, and provide an opportunity for children to have "valuable one-to-one time with their teacher at an early stage".

But new research for More Than a Score, carried out by the survey app Teacher Tapp, shows that just 12 per cent of Reception teachers believe the tests have been helpful for getting to know their pupils.

Reception baseline assessment 'is the last thing teachers needed'

The results, which have been reweighted to make them representative, are based on a survey of 448 Reception teachers, primary heads and senior leadership team members.

They suggest that 88 per cent of Reception teachers believe the tests are a waste of teaching time, while more than two in five (43 per cent) say the process has been stressful for them.

Meanwhile, according to the poll, no teachers believe that administering the new RBA has been a positive experience for pupils, while just one in 10 say the tests did not disrupt time spent in the classroom.

The figures are slightly different when responses for both teachers and school leaders are taken into account. While the proportion who feel the tests are a waste of teaching time drops to 68 per cent, there are also fewer who say the RBA has not disrupted classroom time (6 per cent).

It has previously been suggested that the baseline tests could be anxiety-inducing for young pupils, with children taking part in the RBA pilot in 2019 said to be "scared of getting it wrong".

Today's findings indicate that nearly one 10 teachers and leaders (8 per cent) believe the assessments have been a stressful experience for children.

Victoria Carr, who is head of Woodlands Primary in Cheshire, said the tests "add no value to a child's school experience".

"Our own observation-based assessments tell us all we need to know about each individual pupil," she said.

"We're doing our very best to minimise disruption but it's been the last thing teachers and children have needed."

Nancy Stewart, spokesperson for More Than a Score, said: "The first few weeks of school are absolutely critical. This is when teachers rightly spend their time getting to know children, supporting children's confidence to flourish in the school environment.

"It's simply wrong to disrupt that time with a test whose sole purpose is data collection."

The RBA will serve as the basis for a new way of measuring progress in primary schools, whereby outcomes will be tracked from the point children enter Reception to the point they take their Sats in Year 6.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "Children need to build vital vocabulary and reading skills in their early education, and it is important to see the progress they make in primary school.

"The Reception baseline assessment enables the department to understand how well schools are supporting pupils with these vital skills.

"Once the assessment is fully rolled out, the more substantial assessments at the end of Year 2 will not be mandatory, reducing the burden on teacher workload during these years."

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Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @tweetsbyames

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