New baseline check for Reception and revised early learning goals

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Education secretary Justine Greening has confirmed that there will be a new baseline measure brought into Reception from 2020, and early learning goals will be made 'clearer'.

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The Government has confirmed it will introduce a baseline check in Reception

Key Stage 1 tests will effectively be scrapped and made non-statutory from 2023.

Other changes include the introduction of a multiplication tables check from the summer of 2020, to be administered to pupils at the end of Year 4.

Plans to reform primary assessment, announced on Thursday (14 September), include a teacher-mediated assessment introduced in the Reception year to track pupils’ progress.

The Government said that the baseline check, which will be developed in conjunction with the teaching profession, will ensure schools are given credit for all the work they do throughout a child’s time at primary school.

The Department for Education said that the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile will be retained but will be improved, including a review of supporting guidance, to cut teacher workload.

Its response to the consultation said it would, 'Improve the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile by: revising the Early Learning Goals to make them clearer and align them more closely with teaching in key stage 1; this will support us to meet our manifesto commitment to strengthen the teaching of literacy and numeracy in the early years.'

Its response said that the number of ELGs assessed in the Profile could be reduced.

Confirming the changes, which follow a 12-week consultation with the sector, education secretary Justine Greening said, ‘A good primary education lays the foundations for success at secondary school and beyond. This year’s Key Stage 2 [KS2] results showed our curriculum reforms are starting to raise standards and it is vital we have an assessment system that supports that.

‘These changes will free up teachers to educate and inspire young children while holding schools to account in a proportionate and effective way.’

However, the baseline plans have been slammed by early education experts, who had strongly opposed the move. The Government had been forced to scrap a baseline check last year, due to a lack of comparability between the approved schemes.

Beatrice Merrick, chief executive of Early Education, said, ‘We are disappointed that Government has not listened to the views of early years practitioners and researchers and seems set to repeat its costly and misguided attempts to reintroduce a commercially run baseline assessment scheme in reception.

‘Early labelling of children based on flawed data is deeply damaging to children's progress. Reception teachers across the country who are busy helping new children settle in this year will dread repeating the experience of last year's pilots, which gave them no additional helpful knowledge about their children's starting points, and took up days of teacher time.

‘Headteachers should be concerned that they will be held to account with dodgy data - the Government has not provided satisfactory evidence that a reliable and valid baseline measure can be conducted with four-year-olds that will show progress achieved with KS2 results. It is vital that any proposed scheme is piloted to show that it can address these concerns, and that the benefits outweigh the human and monetary costs.’

The response from teaching unions was mixed.

Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of the NAHT, said, ‘The decision to make SATs for seven-year-olds non-statutory in favour of a new reception baseline assessment may well be met with trepidation by some, but it is absolutely the right thing to do. Under current accountability arrangements, the hard work and success of schools during those critical first years is largely ignored. If designed properly, these new assessments can provide useful information for schools to help inform teaching and learning whilst avoiding unnecessary burdens on teachers or anxiety for young children.

‘We intend to work with Government to ensure that this is exactly where we end up. Taken together, these measures are a big step in the right direction.’

However, Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said, ‘The Reception Baseline Assessment and Multiplication Tables Check will be of no educational benefit to children and break the promise not to increase the assessment burden on primary schools. These tests will be a waste of valuable time, energy and money and should not be introduced.’

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said, ‘It is incredibly disappointing that the Government has chosen to ignore the very valid concerns of the education sector, and reintroduce the fundamentally-flawed baseline assessment policy.

‘No one is arguing against the value of early assessments – but narrow, reductive baseline testing is not the solution. Such tests not only often produce unreliable results, they also risk placing undue pressure on young children at the very start of their educational journeys.’

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