Reception baseline assessment introduction delayed to 2021

Schools will not have to set the new reception baseline assessment this autumn, after the government delayed its statutory introduction as a result of the coronavirus.

The Department for Education said today that “due to the challenging circumstances faced by schools in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, statutory introduction of the RBA has been postponed to Autumn 2021”.

“Instead, schools have the opportunity to sign up to the RBA early adopter year.”

Nick Gibb, the schools minister, said the decision had been made because “some schools may not have had the time they need to familiarise their teachers and staff with the process”.

But he said the government remains “committed to introducing the new assessment” and schools can still sign up to the “early adopter year to familiarise themselves with the content and administration, with the reassurance that this year’s data will not be used for accountability purposes”.

The decision comes despite the department maintaining for months the new assessment for four and five-year-olds will go ahead.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT school leaders’ union, welcomed the “much needed clarity this provides for schools as they prepare for the autumn term”.

But Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, has now called for government “undertake a review of Key Stage 2 tests due to be taken next May as a matter of urgency”.

“There may be merit in allowing schools to run them for their own checks and to support children’s transition to secondary education.

“But it would be wrong to use them for school performance tables after so much disruption and as schools focus on helping children catch-up.”

The move comes after education secretary Gavin Williamson reiterated his support for the new tests in the House of Commons on Monday.

Asked by shadow schools minister Margaret Greenwood whether he would “do the right thing and abandon their plans to bring in reception baseline assessments”, Williamson replied: “No, we will not.”

Plans for the new assessments for reception pupils were outlined in 2017, following a government consultation on primary testing.

The test is due to eventually replace key stage 1 SATs in providing the baseline on which pupil progress scores are based.

In February, the government announced it was continuing with the statutory introduction this year, despite a study finding half of teachers thought it had a negative impact on children.