Baseline protest group calls for assessment review after DfE U-turn

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The Better Without Baseline Coalition is calling for a review of assessment and accountability for the early years following the scrapping of Baseline as a progress measure.

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The Coalition, including many early years organisations and teaching unions, hailed the Government's U-turn last week on Baseline as a victory, and has issued an open letter offering to work with the DfE 'to develop more carefully thought-through approaches that have the best interests of the child at their heart'.

The DfE decided to abandon the Baseline for school accountability measures, after research concluded that the three assessments used by schools are not comparable. Schools will have the option to use the baseline in the 2016-17 academic year, as part of their ‘on-entry assessment’ for children starting school, and will be funded by the department to do so, however.

The Better without Baseline Coalition is among various groups and individuals who have worked to oppose the introduction of the baseline assessment for the past year.

The DfE said that it would be considering options for improving assessment arrangements in reception beyond 2016 to 2017 and would make an announcement in due course.

The Coalition is arguing that the 'more holistic' Early Years Foundation Stage Profile should be retained. The Profile is due to be non-statutory after this year, and the Coalition's letter says, 'The EYFSP remains a widely respected, meaningful and practical assessment, and should be retained at least until a clear, principled and effective improvement can be introduced.'

It questions whether an accountability measure should be inserted into Reception year 'when large numbers of children will already have been receiving EYFS education in school from age two or three'.

The Coalition said it was concerned that the DfE had made this decision through a preoccupation with data comparability, rather than child development and wellbeing. It claimed that the DfE had persistently ignored the evidence that commercial baseline schemes represent:

  • a waste of public money in a time of austerity
  • a waste of teachers’ valuable time
  • disruption to the settling-in period in the reception year
  • potential damage by attaching simplistic labels to children
  • a narrowed curriculum focus with potential negative effects on children’s early experiences and on parental involvement and confidence
  • an inability to provide an accurate or useful picture of children’s current development or to predict their future attainment

Wendy Ellyatt, Chief Executive of the Save Childhood Movement and part of the Coalition, said, 'We welcome the government announcement, but are concerned that lessons should be learned when considering the way forward. It is unfortunate that in cancelling the baseline scheme the DfE emphasis has been on the lack of data comparability, rather than the impact on child wellbeing. We also think serious questions should be asked about how much this has cost in terms of time and money, let alone the impact on schools and teachers, when all the evidence and expert advice suggested that it was the wrong thing to do.'

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