Objections to the government’s intention to bring back baseline assessment are increasing – with the growing chorus now joined by the organisations who provided the tests last time.
In 2015 when the government last tried to bring in baseline in it chose three providers to implement the tests: Early Excellence, the Centre for Evaluating and Monitoring (CEM) and the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER). Now all three providers have come out against the new baseline plans.
Early Excellence, whose observation-based assessment model (the most similar to the existing Early Years Foundation Stage Profile) proved the most popular in 2015, announced in November that they would not be tendering for the baseline contract this time. The government’s new baseline proposal does not allow for an observational approach – a decision Early Excellence has called “an expression of a purely ideological position” that did not accept the “expertise and experience of the sector”. In a statement, the company condemned the proposals as “self-contradictory, incoherent, unworkable and ultimately inaccurate, invalid and unusable.”
CEM, whose test was the second most popular, has also now indicated it is unlikely to submit a bid this time round, with director of applied research Katherine Bailey saying that, because the government’s plans do not support the formative assessment of children, they are “verging on the immoral “.
And now NFER too have criticised the proposals, with Chief Executive Carole Willis telling the website Education Uncovered that the provider is “reviewing the detail of the DfE tender and evaluating whether a valid and reliable assessment can be delivered to the specification”. Education Uncovered’s Warwick Mansell adds that “It is remarkable, perhaps, that such a document can have been put out by the government with, two months after its publication, questions still remaining over validity and reliability.”
Taken together the providers’ criticisms form a devastating blow to the government’s plans to bring back baseline, but we need to keep the pressure on them to abandon this costly, damaging and ultimately pointless process. More Than a Score will be stepping up its activity this month with the launch in Parliament of a new booklet outlining the expert case against baseline. Sign up as a supporter and follow us on Twitter and Facebook to be kept updated – and download and share our new leaflet which explains why baseline assessment is too much, too young.
A previous version of this story mistakenly attributed the quote from Warwick Mansell to Carole Willis