The Department for Education said that they will be inviting a group of schools to participate in the trialling of the new assessment this coming autumn.

The new baseline is being developed by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER). This organisation will also be responsible for piloting, trialling and delivering the assessment for 2 years from September 2020.

Information on the baseline is contained within new guidance for schools, called Reception baseline assessment: what schools need to know. This leaflet gives further details on what the assessment will look like and states:

‘The new reception baseline assessment will be short (approximately 20 minutes), interactive and practical, covering language and communication, early mathematics and (subject to trialling) self-regulation. It will use age-appropriate resources that children can handle and manipulate.’

It talks about how the assessment will reflect ‘familiar foundation-stage practice and encourage positive interaction between the teacher/teaching assistant and the pupil. There will be no need for children to prepare for the baseline assessment, either in a pre-school setting or at home, and in most cases pupils should not be aware that they are being assessed.’

The leaflet also states that the baseline assessment ‘should not replace the good practice of schools liaising with early years settings to gather and share information on the children starting reception’.

The assessment will provide results on what the children are capable of and where they are when they start Reception. Children will not ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ the assessment.

The assessment is intended to be appropriate for all children, including those who have English as an additional language and children with special education needs or disabilities.

However, protests against the baseline assessment are still continuing. In April, teachers at the National Education Union (NEU) conference voted for a campaign to stop the baseline and will be encouraging schools not to take part in the trialling of the assessment in September 2019.

Chief Executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, Neil Leitch, said, “It is incredibly frustrating that the government has chosen to push ahead with the reception baseline assessment, despite such a widespread criticism from early years and primary education professionals.

“We are clear that while effective assessment is undoubtedly an important part of early education, a baseline assessment proposed by the government, which focused predominantly on narrow, easy-to-measure skills, is not the right approach.

“What’s more, the fact that the guidance document states that in the ‘most’ – but, by implication, not all – cases children won’t be aware they are being assessed, and that “most’ children with SEND or speaking EAL will be able to be included in these assessments is far from reassuring.

“Rather than pushing ahead with such a fundamentally flawed initiative, Government should listen to the concerns of those early years practitioners and reception teachers who know and understand how young children learn and develop, and ensure that any changes to early assessments are focused on meeting the needs of children – not just making it easier to judge and rank schools.”

The national charity Early Education said that schools should think carefully before volunteering to take part in the pilots as they believe the proposals remain fundamentally flawed.

A statement said, “The tests will require at least 20 minutes of teacher/teaching assistant time per child to administer in the early weeks of a child first term at school, disrupting normal routines and taking up better spent helping children to settle into school and continue their learning.

“The test has not been designed to benefit the children tested, their teachers or parents. The leaflet says ‘The results of the assessment will not be used by Government to track or label individual pupils…As we develop and trial the baseline assessment, we will explore whether any information it produces should be shared with schools and parents.’

“This demonstrates the inherent contradiction between DfE’s recognition of the danger of such a flawed test being used to make claims about individual children’s learning, and the likelihood that parents will expect to have access to their children’s results.”

A national pilot of the baseline is expected to be rolled out in the 2019-2020 academic year, with the aim that it will be rolled out to all schools in England the following academic year.

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