Right use of the baseline

I APPRECIATED Eric Wilkinson's letter (TESS, October 2) about the baseline assessment being developed by the Scottish Office, but I suggest that there needs to be more consideration of the purposes for which it may be used.

So far teachers in the pilot project have used it as formative assessment, and I am sure that for this purpose it is a valuable resource. In Aberdeen, PIPS (Performance Indicators in Primary Schools) is used for a similar purpose as part of the city's early intervention programme.

However, the Scottish Office has made clear that it wants to use baseline assessment for value-added purposes and that it would like to see a common method throughout Scotland.

The Scottish OfficeConvention of Scottish Local Authorities working group mentioned in Professor Wilkinson's letter is developing measures for comparing school performance. Until now, the Scottish Office has been unable to develop value-added school comparisons because of a lack of measures of prior attainment, and has instead used free-meal entitlement as the schools characteristics index for target-setting.

The purpose for which PIPS is being used in Aberdeen primaries is to provide schools with objective measures of pupils' baselines attainment on entry to primary 1 and subsequent progress in reading and number work by the end of P1.

It provides schools with information about the progress of individual pupils and is a means of evaluating the effectiveness of different teaching approaches.

In this context PIPs is used to support schools, not compare schools.

Linda Croxford, Centre for Educational Sociology, Edinburgh University.

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