Schools sought for autumn 2019 baseline pilot

Schools willing to trial the government’s new baseline assessment are being sought to take part in a pilot this year – but the department won’t confirm how many schools it wants to take part.

The new test for reception children, which will provide the baseline for measuring progress in primary schools, will not become statutory until next year.

But the Department for Education has today confirmed plans for a national voluntary pilot this autumn.

This is an opportunity for schools to familiarise themselves with this new assessment and help us make sure it works

Plans for a new baseline test were announced in 2017, and there is a lot riding on their introduction. The government has said that if the baseline proves successful, key stage 1 SATs, which are currently used as the start point to track progress of 11-year-olds, will be scrapped from 2022-23.

The proposals are backed by school leadership unions NAHT and ASCL, but early years sector representatives have called for a boycott of the trials, amid concerns that reception pupils are too young to be tested.

The use of a reception baseline is also controversial because of the failure of the last pilot of the tests less than four years ago.

Three approved providers rolled out their assessments in September 2015, only for a study to later find they were not comparable and the project was effectively cancelled.

One provider, Early Excellence, developed an observation-based model of assessment which was favoured by the majority of primary schools.

The other two, Durham University’s Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring, and the National Foundation for Education Research’s centre for assessment, created test-based models.

The NFER was selected last year as the sole provider of the new baseline assessments, a move welcomed by heads’ unions.

The government believes the new test will make progress measures fairer because it will take into account the work of schools between reception and year 2, when key stage 1 SATs are currently sat.

Pupils won’t need to prepare for the tests, and will not be deemed to have passed or failed them. Numerical data will not be shared with schools. Instead, teachers will receive a series of short, narrative statements to tell them how their pupils performed shortly after the assessment.

The tests, which focus on language, communication and literacy, and early maths, take around 20 minutes each to carry out and are to be administered at any time within the first 6 weeks of children starting reception classes.

Calling for schools to volunteer for the pilot, schools minister Nick Gibb said the assessment was a “hugely important step forward in ensuring that we can fairly and accurately measure how effectively schools are helping children to progress while helping to reduce the burden of assessment for teachers”.

“This is an opportunity for schools to familiarise themselves with this new assessment and help us make sure it works for children and teachers ahead of its scheduled statutory introduction in autumn 2020.”