Baseline Did Not Pass!

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While campaigners celebrate the Government's U-turn, the early years sector must stay vigilant, says Cathy Nutbrown

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Professor Cathy Nutbrown

Last week the Government announced that the commercial baseline assessment packages would not be used to measure the progress of schools in improving children’s achievement.

Now, while this is good news for many of us who have long opposed baseline assessment, it is still important to remain vigilant about what happens next. The reason the Government will not require teachers to assess four-year-olds using a commercially designed measurement instrument in their early weeks in school is because ultimately the results cannot be used to judge the performance of the school on pupil achievement. But funding is still available for schools to use the government-preferred instruments for the next school year beginning September 2016 alongside teachers’ usual observation and assessment practices.

Why would teachers want to do this? A study commissioned by the ATL and NUT published in February ‘found that teachers have major concerns about the negative consequences of baseline assessment on children, teachers and schools’. Further, the three government-funded instruments were found to offer no improvement in assessment practice.

So what happens now? The Better without Baseline Coalition – which has been campaigning against the introduction of baseline assessment – urges the retention of the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile while a rethink on baseline assessment is undertaken.

It says, ‘Unfortunately, the DfE appears to be disregarding plentiful evidence that 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.’

In light of this, we can hope that schools continue to value, use and add to children’s Early Years Foundation Stage Profiles, and that any policy rethink takes account of all the evidence available about the best ways to assess young children’s learning.

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