NFER to deliver reception baseline test

The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) has been chosen to deliver the controversial new baseline test for reception children, which will be rolled out to all schools by the end of 2020.

The reintroduction of the test was announced by former education secretary Justine Greening in September last year, despite a previous pilot of baseline tests in 2015 having been abandoned before it was complete.

Schools minister Nick Gibb announced today that the new reception baseline assessment will be administered as a twenty-minute, teacher-recorded assessment of children’s communication, language, literacy and early mathematics skills.

He said the test will replace the statutory SATs tests which pupils take at the end of key stage 1, in order to “free up teacher time and resources so they can focus on what really matters in the classroom”.

The new assessment will be used to create school-level progress measures for primaries, to show the progress pupils make from reception until the end of key stage 2. The progress scores will be published for the first time in in the summer of 2027.

Carole Willis, chief executive of NFER said: “Our experience in producing a reception baseline assessment in 2015 demonstrated that it is possible to undertake a robust assessment of children’s language, literacy and numeracy skills at this age. Reception children enjoy taking our assessment – which involves using resources such as counting teddy bears, plastic shapes and picture sequencing cards, reflecting familiar classroom practice.

“This new assessment is intended to be a cohort level measure, rather than an individual pupil measure. Introducing such a measure at the start of reception allows the huge contribution that schools make to children’s progress in the first three years of school to be properly recognised.”

The selection of NFER followed an open procurement process. In November last year, Early Excellence, one of the companies that previously developed a popular baseline assessment used by 12,500 schools, announced that it would not compete to deliver the government’s new baseline tests because it disagreed with the decision to follow a ‘non-observational’ approach.

Speakers at a conference in London in December also spoke of concerns about the new reception baseline assessment, and discussed the possibility of schools boycotting pilots of the tests in September 2019.

Commenting on today’s government announcement, Julie McCulloch, interim director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We need a system which better reflects the entirety of their schooling and the vital work in the infant years, and we therefore support a light-touch assessment near the beginning of reception which will provide an earlier starting point for measuring progress and give parents a more complete picture.

“It is essential that any reception assessment is thoroughly trialled before it is rolled out, to ensure it is as valid and reliable as possible, and does not put pressure on very young children.

“We will be encouraging our members to participate in the trials, to help shape the new assessment and ensure it is fit for purpose.”


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