Reception baseline tests: 'Parents could boycott the trials'

Department for Education is due to spend almost £10m on controversial assessment of four-year-olds – but there is a 'growing campaign' against the plan

Helen Ward

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Plans for a Reception year baseline are not a “done deal”, delegates at a conference on primary assessment in London were told today.

Nancy Stewart, vice chair of TACTYC, the association for professional development in early years, said that she felt that plans to use scores gathered from children as they enter school aged 4 or 5 to measure how much they have progressed by age 11 were “a fantasy”.

When asked by a delegate at the Westminster Education Forum on primary assessment whether she felt that there was anything that could be done by campaigners to resist the baseline, Ms Stewart replied that she felt the policy was not a done deal.

“There are going to be trials and pilots,” she said. “I wonder whether schools could decline to take part in those trials, in the pilots?

“Also I think involving parents, because these are children who are not statutory school age. I think parents could say, 'No, you are not doing this to my child.'

“So there is a growing campaign. There will be ongoing opposition.”

'Ongoing opposition'

TACTYC is part of the More than a Score umbrella group, which also includes the Association of Educational Psychologists and the British Educational Research Association, and which has been campaigning against the baseline.

The baseline assessment is due to start in 2020 and will be an assessment of pupils’ communication, language, literacy and mathematics skills.

The NAHT heads' union has “cautiously supported” the introduction of the baseline assessment.

Sarah Hannafin, of NAHT’s policy team, said: “The reception baseline needs to be appropriate to pupils and schools.  We can only influence the shape of it, to ensure that it does not have negative impact on children or teachers, if we’re involved in the design and are around the table when decisions are made. Many of our members are keen to be involved in the pilot and we'd encourage schools to take part, so that we have the evidence to ensure that we can address any problems early on.”

The government published its contract notice for the baseline assessment today, saying it intends to ask for bids from organisations interested in developing and running the assessment. As revealed by Tes, it will cost around £10 million and the anticipated contract start is April 2018.

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Helen Ward

Helen Ward

Helen Ward is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @teshelen

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