Baseline Assessment: Pointless & Damaging

Today the Department for Education announced that it is awarding the National Foundation for Educational Research the £10 million contract to develop Baseline Assessment of all four years olds in England.

At the weekend the TES featured an open letter from More Than a Score and more than 700 leading academics and teachers opposing the introduction of Baseline Assessment.

We encourage parents, teachers and educational experts to oppose Baseline. Sign our petition today.

More Than a Score Statement for Press

Madeleine Holt, More Than a Score spokesperson, comments on the news that the DfE has awarded NFER, the National Foundation for Educational Research, the £10 million contract to develop the Baseline Assessment of all four year olds in England.

‘Baseline Assessment in various guises has been repeatedly introduced and failed. Reintroducing it is an expensive and pointless exercise which only serves to  damage children’s education and wellbeing.

There is no research evidence that four year olds can be reliably tested; the government has certainly not produced any. The score that the Baseline test produces will not be a true picture of what children can do – yet it will be used to judge schools seven years later to assess whether they have enabled children to make enough progress

By focusing almost exclusively on literacy and numeracy, the proposed baseline assessment will force a narrowing of the curriculum to these areas.  This is counterproductive, as young children will not develop these skills without developing their oral language, physical development and having rich experiences across the curriculum to engage their love of learning and understanding of the world around them.  Teachers around the country are already telling us how they are being pressured to teach in ways that are not in children’s best interests.

Baseline Assessment is doomed to fail again. In the interests of children and their schools, More Than a Score will be working to make sure this happens sooner rather than later.

More Than a Score is an alliance of parents, teachers and educational experts that opposes our current system of primary assessment. It aims to make sure that plans for Baseline Assessment will be scrutinised, criticised and rejected. ‘

For interviews, contact:

Beatrice Merrick, Chief Executive, Early Education
Tel: 01923 438 995
Direct line: 01923 438 997
Mobile: 07712 398672

Baseline update: now even the providers are attacking the new plans

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

Government statement on Primary Assessment 14th September 2017

More than a Score Response

More than a Score is a coalition of parents and educators who want to see an alternative to England’s present system of primary assessment , which damages children’s learning and narrows their experience of education.

Madeleine Holt, representing More Than a Score, said:

Justine Greening hopes that this statement will secure the long-term future of its primary assessment system. It will do no such thing. The statement does not answer the concerns of parents and teachers about the damage done by high-stakes testing and teaching to the test. Rather than reduce the burden of assessment, it adds more tests.

At Key Stage 1, the DFE says that SATs will continue until at least 2022. Key Stage 2 SATs, including the grammar test, will continue into the distant future. A new test will be introduced for Year 4 children – a multiplication check. Reception age children will face baseline assessment – a test which has already been tried twice by policy-makers, and failed each time.

We need sweeping change in our primary schools, not more of the same. It is desperately sad for our children that this is the best that the Secretary of State can offer them – a primary education dominated by testing and obsessed by measuring, that struggles to find a place for the broad and rich curriculum that children really need. In place of a bold vision, the government is making another effort to repair a system which is clearly broken and irreparable, and should be replaced.

For press enquiries, please Contact More Than A Score.

Make Primary Assessment Matter: Tell the new government that you want real change

More Than a Score believes that parents, carers and families have a rich experience of primary assessment, and we encourage MTAS supporters to make their voices heard through the DfE consultation.

We have offered guidance below for the questions that we believe are most important to respond to. You may respond only to these questions, or complete all the questions in the consultation if you wish.

Please do not copy and paste text directly from these notes as identical consultation responses will be disregarded by the DfE.

Click here to respond to the consultation.

Click here to download the MTAS Consultation Response Guidance for Parents .doc file