Experts call for withdrawal of baseline check

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Campaigners are calling on the Government to scrap the new baseline check, which all children will be required to take in the first few weeks of starting Reception.

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Children will be assessed in the first few weeks of starting Reception

The petition set up on the change.org website by Early Education argues for the withdrawal of the introduction of baseline assessment in reception classes, and retaining the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Profile as the measure of children’s progress at the end of the EYFS.

The 'baseline' will be used to assess children starting Reception in September 2016, but a pilot year of the scheme will start in September.

There is widespread opposition among early years experts to the scheme and the petition has support from early years associations including TACTYC, the Early Childhood Forum, ‘Too much Too Soon’, and the Pre-school Learning Alliance and PACEY, among others.

Signatories include Professor Cathy Nutbrown, Julian Grenier, head of Sheringham Nursery School and Children’s Centre, and early years consultant and co-author of Development Matters, Helen Moylett.

The Department for Education is due to name the approved commercial providers of baseline schemes at the end of the month. Teachers will be able to choose from ‘a range of assessment approaches’ and the check will be carried out by Reception teachers.

Campaigners fear that that primary schools will be under pressure to sign up to a scheme, even though that first year is only a trial. 

Beatrice Merrick, chief executive of Early Education, said, ‘We started this petition because there is clearly so much concern in the sector about the introduction of baseline assessment in Reception.

‘There’s widespread agreement that it’s a flawed model which has failed every time attempts have been made to introduce it. It will be damaging to children, and unhelpful for staff working hard to settle children at the start of school. It could also impact badly on schools relationships with parents at the start of primary – and we know that parents are vital partners in the learning process.’

Campaigners also argue that the EYFS Profile is the only nationwide data available and that moving to the baseline would mean losing valuable longitudinal national data on young children, which is important for education and health professionals and policymakers. They say that without it there will be no national dataset to measure the effectiveness of the Early Years Pupil Premium.

‘Data from baseline assessment will based on a narrower and flawed set of criteria, be incomplete (it is non-statutory) and will not provide the historic time series data to allow comparisons over time. The current Profile may not be perfect, but it’s certainly better to have it than not,’ Ms Merrick added. 

‘We’d ideally like to see all parties committing to reconsidering this new model of baseline assessment as part of their manifesto, so we want to engage parents on this issue and ask them to let their MPs know how they feel about this policy now.  An early rethink of this policy will be far less wasteful and damaging than a late u-turn.’

Dr Richard House of Early Childhood Action and the 'Too Much Too Soon' campaign said, 'I think we may well be at a crucial turning-point in the evolution of the early years profession. More and more people in the field are prepared to defy top-down government edicts, refusing to impose pedagogical practices which they know will harm young children's development, and which will merely ratchet up modern society's multiple cultural assaults on childhood experience. Whoever is elected in May really must take notice of and respond to these concerns, or the education system could have a full-blown crisis on its hands.'

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