Reception Baseline: Just 3 per cent of teachers believe test provides 'accurate' information on children's skills

Catherine Gaunt
Friday, October 20, 2023

Most teachers believe Reception Baseline tests in English and Maths for four- and five-year-olds are inaccurate and do not provide a good experience for children, according to a new survey.

PHOTO Adobe Stock
PHOTO Adobe Stock

A survey by campaign group More Than A Score has found that just 3 per cent of reception teachers say that the Reception Baseline Assessment – which all children in England take in their first few weeks of starting school – provides accurate information.

Ninety-seven per cent of teachers believe that Baseline assessment does not an provide accurate assessment of children’s abilities, according to the findings.

Formally testing Reception children when they start school is not a reliable measure, according to the results of the survey of 1,161 reception teachers and primary school leaders carried out by Teacher Tapp for More Than A Score.

The campaign group says that the baseline is ‘just another pointless government test’ that children take in primary school.

The research surveyed primary EYFS and Reception teachers, senior leadership team and head teachers.

Three-quarters (76 per cent) of Reception teachers also say Baseline Assessment is unhelpful during children’s settling-in period, which takes place in the first few weeks of school.

All four- and five-year-olds who started school this term are legally required to take the Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA) in their first few weeks of joining.

The test has been statutory for all children in England since it was introduced in September 2021.

More Than A Score has calculated that at least 60,000 school days have been lost to administering the Reception Baseline Assessment since the start of term.

The baseline assessments must be carried out before the October half-term holiday, which starts next week.

More Than A Score said that many of the criticisms of the test prior to its introduction have been borne out by classroom experiences.

The National Education Union said that it was ‘striking’ that just 3 per cent of reception teachers say Baseline provides accurate information and just 1 per cent of heads and teachers say it is a good experience for children.

Fewer than 2 per cent of heads believe it is important for parents and families.

The Reception Baseline is designed to replace Year 2 SATs as the starting point for a measure of academic progress.

The government says that data from the assessment will be compared to year 6 SATs results to judge school performance.

But More Than A Score said that two years on from its introduction, the Government has not provided any information about how a 20-minute test taken by children at the age of four will be ‘reliably analysed’ against the results of four days of tests taken by pupils at the age of 11.

Commenting on the results, Alison Ali of More Than A Score said, ‘Reception Baseline Assessment is just another pointless government test in primary schools.
‘Parents, heads and teachers, all know how pivotal the settling-in period is for young children when they start school.

‘This is when teachers rightly spend their time getting to know children and instilling a love of learning. To have that time disrupted with formal testing solely for the purpose of data collection is difficult to justify. We are two years on from the assessment being introduced and, as these results show, support from teachers and heads remains very low. We need to look at ways to inspire a love of learning from a young age, instead of wasting precious time on needless testing.’

Commenting on the results, Daniel Kebede, general secretary of the National Education Union, said, ‘The research released by More Than A Score makes it clear: the Reception Baseline Assessment is an inexcusable use of children and teachers’ time. Teachers are being pulled away from their classrooms, where they can support children to feel safe and secure, in order to administer Baseline.  

There are no benefits of this test for children, families and teachers. Any responsible government would give serious consideration to whether an initiative so deeply criticised by professionals should still be pursued. 

Baseline is not designed to support the learning of our four to five-year-olds but to provide government with performance data. It’s time the needs of our children were prioritised over league tables.

A Department for Education spokesperson said, 'The reception baseline assessment (RBA) is essential for building a fairer progress measure for primary schools. It is a short, interactive and practical assessment that takes around 15 minutes, covering early mathematics, language, literacy, and communication.

'Data from the RBA will enable us to give schools credit for the progress they help pupils make throughout the whole of their time in primary school, including in the first three years.'

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