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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

Another voice joins the calls for primary assessment reform

A review of assessment commissioned by education business Pearson has produced an interim report which casts further doubt on the primary assessment system.

The report, Testing the Water, has found:

  • Teachers do not feel their professional judgment is valued highly enough and they are concerned about the impact assessment is having on the curriculum.
  • Children with SEND are put at a disadvantage by an assessment system which does not recognise their capacities and needs.
  • Teachers are concerned about the dominance of assessment-for-accountability.
  • Teachers, parents, governors and pupils all feel anxiety over the impact of high stakes tests.
  • The concerns of government are prioritised over and above the needs of teachers and pupils.

More Than a Score welcomes another voice calling on government to rethink current primary assessment policy. The chorus of unhappy voices continues to grow and the government must listen. The problems are much deeper than the chaos and mistakes of last year; delivering SATs this year without any administrative blunders will not address the problems with the system.

Read the interim report:
Find more coverage of the report in the TES:

More than a Score statement on the Report of the House of Commons Education Committee

Since the new assessment system was introduced last year, teachers, researchers and parents have been pointing out its deep failings.

Now the same concerns are highlighted at the top level of politics. Politicians have recognised the harm that a high-stakes assessment system is doing to pupils, teachers and the curriculum.

The report goes much further that the government’s current Consultation exercise.

MTAS welcomes the clarity of its criticisms, and the good sense of some of its recommendations. We endorse the report’s rejection of statutory tests in spelling, grammar and punctuation, its concern for creativity in writing and its commitment to a broad and balanced curriculum.

In some respects, its recommendations do not go far enough.

It is highly critical of baseline assessment, and its ‘potential harmful consequences’ – but still thinks it can be used as a starting-point from which to measure children’s progress.

It is concerned about the effects of high stakes testing at Key Stage 2, yet thinks that they can be dealt with by averaging out test data over a three-year period. But you can’t deal with a flawed testing instrument by averaging what it says over three years.

Overall, however, the impact of the report is clear. The government can no longer pretend that the problems of the system can be resolved with minor changes. Much deeper reform is needed, where assessment needs be rethought, in terms of supporting children’s development and well-being. With the publication of this report, that reform has come one step nearer.

You can read the Committee Report here