Re-examine the baseline

Be the first to comment

How, why and when we should assess young children's learning is once more a matter for debate in English policy.


Professor Cathy Nutbrown

Hailed as necessary to identify and measure their progress from the start of school, baseline
assessment is set to be re-introduced.

But before we abandon the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile, we should think carefully about what the re-introduction of baseline assessment will mean for children, their reception teachers, other practitioners, and parents.

First introduced in England in 1997, the baseline policy was abandoned in 2002 because it was not effective. It did not support individual children's learning and development and it did not give a measure of school effectiveness.

The re-introduction of compulsory baseline assessment in 2016 means that something known to be deeply flawed is being implemented against the best judgment of many professionals and parents.

Young children, many only just four years old, will be tested within weeks of entering school and the important information that contributed to their EYFS Profile could be ignored. This will devalue the holistic and ongoing assessments practitioners in nurseries will have done, and will provide a stress point for children and teachers at transition.

Testing children's knowledge when they are only just becoming accustomed to the school routine is not a reliable way to identify learning and development. Baseline assessment does not support learning; it takes teachers away from working with children. Time that could have been spent playing and learning is lost while a teacher carries out 30 or so individual assessments. Learning and other developmental needs are better identified - over time - by well qualified early years practitioners who observe and interact with young children as they play.

Foundations of effective early education will be sidelined with the requirement to assess particular things (and not others) in particular ways for purposes of school management and accountability.

We all need to take some time to challenge the implementation of baseline assessment. People have worked hard to implement the EYFS Profile, which (though not perfect) is a more meaningful way of understanding and documenting young children's learning.

blog comments powered by Disqus