The Department for Education is also considering whether any information from the assessment will be shared with schools and parents, as it develops and trials the baseline.
This information has been confirmed in new guidance for schools, Reception baseline assessment: what schools need to know, which sets out the government’s plans for baseline, including the timeline for development.
The new baseline is being developed by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), including trialling, piloting and the first two statutory years of delivering it from September 2020.
The DfE said it will be inviting a sample of schools to take part in trialling the new assessment in the autumn.
All schools with Reception classes will be invited to take part in the national pilot of the assessment, which will take place during the 2019/20 academic year.
The guidance also gives more information on what the assessment will look like for children.
It says, ‘The new reception baseline assessment will be short (approximately 20 minutes), interactive and practical, covering language and communication, early mathematics and (subject to trialling) self-regulation. It will use age-appropriate resources that children can handle and manipulate.’
It goes on to say that the assessment will reflect ‘familiar foundation-stage practice and encourage positive interaction between the teacher/ teaching assistant and the pupil. There will be no need for children to prepare for the baseline assessment, either in a pre-school setting or at home, and in most cases pupils should not be aware that they are being assessed.’
The baseline ‘should not replace the good practice of schools liaising with early years settings to gather and share information on the children starting Reception’.
Children will not ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ the assessment - it will provide a snapshot of where they are when they start school in Reception.
It also says that the intention is that the baseline will be accessible to ‘the vast majority of children’, and that most children with special education needs or disabilities, or who have English as an additional language will be able to take part in the assessment.
Meanwhile, protests against the baseline are ongoing. In April, teachers at the National Education Union conference voted in favour of a major campaign to stop the baseline and will be encouraging schools not to take part in the pilot of baseline assessment in September 2019.
The NEU is part of the More than a Score coalition of organisations and individuals that are calling for the baseline to be scrapped.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said, ‘It is incredibly frustrating that the Government has chosen to push ahead with the Reception baseline assessment, despite such widespread criticism from early years and primary education professionals.
‘We’re clear that while effective assessment is undoubtedly an important part of early education, a baseline assessment as proposed by Government, which focuses predominantly on narrow, easy-to-measure skills, is not the right approach.
‘What’s more, the fact that the guidance document states that in “most”– but, by implication, not all – cases children won’t be aware they are being assessed, and that “most” children with SEND or speaking EAL will be able to be included in these assessments is far from reassuring.
‘Rather than pushing ahead with such a fundamentally flawed initiative, Government should listen to the concerns of those early years practitioners and reception teachers who know and understand how young children learn and develop, and ensure that any changes to early assessments are focused on meeting the needs of children – not just making it easier to judge and rank schools.’
Early Education said it believes the proposals remain fundamentally flawed, and that schools should think carefully before considering volunteering to take part in the pilots.
In a statement it said, ‘The tests will require at least 20 minutes of teacher/teaching assistant time per child to administer in the early weeks of a child's first term at school, disrupting normal routines and taking up better spent helping children to settle in to school and continue their learning.
'The test has not been designed to benefit the children tested, their teachers or parents. The leaflet says “The results of the assessment will not be used by Government to track or label individual pupils,.... As we develop and trial the baseline assessment, we will explore whether any information it produces should be shared with schools and parents.”
'This demonstrates the inherent contradiction between DfE's recognition of the danger of such a flawed test being used to make claims about individual children's learning, and the likelihood that parents will expect to have access to their children's results.’
TIMELINE FOR DEVELOPMENT
April 2018 to August 2019 - Developing and trialling the baseline assessment
2019 to 2020 academic year - National pilot
2020 to 2021 academic year - Rolled out to all schools in England as a statutory assessment
- Read the guidance here