Reception Baseline on hold until September 2021

Catherine Gaunt
Thursday, June 25, 2020

The Reception Baseline has been postponed for a year to autumn 2021 due to the ‘challenging circumstances’ schools face with the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government has announced, in a move welcomed by campaigners.

More Than A Score campaigners have called for the Reception Baseline to be axed
More Than A Score campaigners have called for the Reception Baseline to be axed

The controversial Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA) was due to become statutory in September with children expected to take it within the first few weeks of starting school.

Campaigners against the test for four-year-olds have said it is not a reliable assessment and Reception teachers involved in the pilot of the test said it makes some children anxious because they 'fear getting it wrong'.

In updated guidance, the Standards and Testing Agency said schools will have the option to sign up to the RBA Early Adopter year to familiarise themselves with assessment materials before the RBA becomes statutory.

Schools who choose to participate will receive assessment materials shortly before the October 2020 half term, with the optional assessment window opening for six-weeks after the October half term.

The guidance states that participation is optional, even after signing up. Data gathered from the Early Adopter year will not be used for the purpose of the progress measure.

Schools that choose to take part must sign up between 25 June and 24 July 2020.

Announcing the change in plan, school standards minister Nick Gibb said, ‘As we prepare for all children to return to school in September, I know teachers are working tirelessly to provide extra support to children to recover from the impact of coronavirus.

‘In light of the circumstances, we have decided to postpone the statutory rollout of the Reception Baseline Assessment until September 2021, given that some schools may not have had the time they need to familiarise their teachers and staff with the process.

‘We remain committed to introducing the new assessment to have a fairer accountability system for schools, based on the educational progress their pupils make during their time at primary school. Schools will have the flexibility to sign up to the Early Adopter Year to familiarise themselves with the content and administration, with the reassurance that this year’s data will not be used for accountability purposes.’

Teaching unions and campaigners have welcomed the Government's decision to delay the introduction of the Baseline, but called for it to be scrapped completely.

Nancy Stewart of More than A Score said, 'We are glad they have listened, after intense campaigning from the More Than A Score coalition of parents, teachers, heads and education experts, who are united in condemning the introduction of these useless, harmful tests. Only the Government persists in believing these tests have any worth.

‘The tests will not help children to learn, or teachers to teach. Schools carry out their own, much more careful, personal and accurate informal assessments of Reception pupils. The Government will lock away the results of its tests for seven years and has still not revealed how it will use this data to measure schools.

‘It’s time to call a halt to these insane tests for good.'

She added, ‘Schools had the opportunity to be early adopters in the pilot and more than half declined it. With all the challenges schools are facing in September, it seems highly unlikely that they will add another level of bureaucratic stress to the lives of teachers and young children.

‘The primary assessment system was never fit for purpose. It’s good to see this ill thought-through part of it crumbling.’

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, which has previously called on teachers to boycott the Baseline, also welcomed the decision.

‘Schools need to be fully focused on supporting children's learning as they return to school, and Baseline testing would have been a complete distraction. Government must be honest with parents and pupils that while teachers will be doing their utmost to ensure the well-being of pupils and their learning, it won't be the same as we left it in March.

‘Although the Government has had the good sense to call off the tests, it is still encouraging schools to become “early adopters” of the tests. There is no value to schools in doing this: Baseline remains a pointless exercise in accountability, not a measure that can improve the quality of teaching and learning. Alongside many others in the early years sector, the union will continue to campaign for the complete withdrawal of Reception Baseline Assessment from the policy agenda.’

Shadow schools minister Margaret Greenwood said, 'On Monday Labour called on the Government to abandon its plans to bring in the Reception Baseline Assessment. The government rejected that call.

'Just days later they are now pushing back the introduction of this ill-conceived test by a year.

'This is not good enough. Research by University College London into the pilot of the test last year found that it caused anxiety, stress and a sense of failure in many children.

'There can be no justification for bringing in a testing regime that damages the mental health of children.

'The wellbeing of children should be at the heart of education policy. The government must now go further and abandon its plans to bring in the Reception Baseline Assessment.'


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