First look at feedback on the Baseline models

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Primary schools in England taking part in the pilot year of the Reception Baseline have been receiving their results.

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Savile Park Primary School uses the Early Excellence assessment

Primary schools in England taking part in the pilot year of the Reception Baseline have been receiving their results.

Schools had to submit their data by 16 October and will now have received feedback and analysis from the three baseline providers.

Nursery World has spoken to Reception class teachers, heads and providers about their experiences.

Early Excellence, EExBA

The EExBA has been used in 12,000 schools, equivalent to 70 per cent of primary schools in England.

Savile Park Primary School, Halifax

‘Our school took part in Early Excellence’s trial last year and chose to use its Baseline this year, because it fits with our pedagogy,’ said Jayne Edwards, assistant headteacher and Reception class teacher.

‘I certainly wouldn’t want to sit my children down in front of a computer and test them in this way. This model is informative for us as practitioners as it is based on observations and interactions. It’s helped us to really get to know our children.’

‘Children are assessed against 38 different statements within the Prime and Specific areas of learning in the Early Years Foundation Stage along with which of the characteristics of learning they display.

So, for example, one of the statements asks whether a child ‘recognises numerals of personal significance’, which could be a child seeing the number “5” on a door and saying, “I’m five.”’

Mrs Edwards stressed that children were only assessed when it was felt that they were ready. ‘It’s about making sure they’re ready to learn, checking their well-being, involvement and level of engagement before assessing.

‘It isn’t a test; it’s assessing children against a set of yes or no statements, through interaction and observation. It’s up to you as a practitioner to set up the areas within your classroom, so that children can display what they can or cannot do. You continue to teach, interact and observe the children throughout the process.’

The Baseline had helped to compare different cohorts of children at school and national level, Mrs Edwards said, for example, children with special educational needs, and those receiving the Pupil Premium.’

Liz Marsden, director, Early Excellence

‘Since the beginning of this school year, 500,000 children have been assessed using Early Excellence’s model, which unlike other models emphasises the well-being and involvement of children, building characteristics for effective learning and development. Now we have reached the data deadline, we will be able to build a national picture of children on entry to school we’ve never had before.

‘Early Excellence is proud to have worked with so many schools and we’re delighted with the positive feedback we have received from the headteachers and practitioners using our innovative model.’

The Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring, Durham University (CEM), Base

Just under 100,00 children across 2,500 schools used Base. Most were maintained schools, with a small number of independent and international schools.

Kirk Merrington Primary School, County Durham

The school took part in the trial of Base in 2014-15, and chose to use Base in the pilot.

Reception teacher Sarah Bell said, ‘Base is easy to administer for teachers and presented to children in a fun and visually attractive way. Milly the Bug was a big hit with the Reception children, who loved using the computer to complete a “special job” with their teacher.

‘Base was a useful tool in evaluating the starting point of children when entering our school and it was nice to have some one-to-one time with each child to see exactly what their needs and strengths were. The reports were simple to understand, giving us an indication of how our children compared against national standards and other similar schools. We shared the individual reports with parents, which was a valuable tool in informing parents of their child’s progress.’

Head teacher Helen Williams said, ‘I would say that after many years of association with Durham University we knew that the system would be robust. After the trial, the stats that came back were remarkably accurate and mirrored the teacher’s thoughts. This gave her confidence in her own judgement. The university has also been very helpful; its back-up team is great, friendly and informed.’

Commenting on the Baseline in general, she said she had concerns that there were three different providers. ‘There are general concerns among headteachers about how fair this is going to be,’ she said. ‘There will need to be clear and accurate moderation. How will it work as it goes up the school? How do you know that the progress rate is going to be right, when it’s only just been introduced?’

Professor Robert Coe, director, CEM

‘It’s pretty much gone smoothly and feedback has been very positive, with schools saying it’s giving them lots of valuable information.

‘Schools also have the option to have extra, for example they can use information at the end of Reception as well as at the beginning to see how well children are doing.

‘One part is the end of Reception follow-up and diagnostic information, in particular for early reading, where there are often very specific reasons why children can’t decode, for example, an auditory problem.

‘We can assess that at the beginning of Reception and suggest some strategies. Each child will have a profile of their strengths and weaknesses.

‘There’s a bit of uncertainty about whether the Baseline will continue. We won’t be given a final decision about being an accredited provider until January or February. Part of it is waiting for the comparability study.’

‘We’re pretty confident that ours has worked well.’

NFER Reception Baseline Assessment

Desiree le Roux, assistant head teacher at St Ursula’s Catholic Infant School, Romford, Greater London

‘I found it really easy to use, and it gave a clear indication at the level that children were at on entry to Reception.

‘We have a really large number of children with additional languages and it gave us a feel for their understanding. It gave teachers the opportunity to spend [one-to-one time] with children at the start of the year.

‘As the children gave their responses, the teacher recorded it on the iPad. Children were physically engaged in activities and not looking at the screen at all. Those responses were fed into a database, and at the end of the process this went straight into a report indicating how well the school had done as a cohort.

‘There were separate reports for literacy and maths and a checklist report based on teacher and support staff observations in the classroom for communication and PSED.

‘It also produced a very parent-friendly report that we gave to parents at a parents’ consultation session. There were reports for teachers to see each child’s performance at a glance.

Liz Twist, head of centre for assessment, NFER

‘We are delighted with the delivery of our first NFER Reception Baseline. Schools successfully completed the assessments and feedback from schools has been very positive. They liked the combination of tasks and observational checklists and that no additional training was needed for the assessment.’

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