Scrap KS1 tests and create ‘working’ baseline, says union leader

A working baseline test should be introduced for reception pupils and statutory key stage 1 assessment should be “scrapped altogether”, a union leader has said as he warned heads could not “endure another year of chaos”.

Russell Hobby, the general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers, told the union’s annual conference in Birmingham today that schools should “return to the idea” of a reception baseline, a suggestion he acknowledged as “unpopular”.

The government changed its stance on controversial new baseline tests last month following significant concerns over their comparability. It also faced criticism over its handling of other primary assessments, including the leak and subsequent cancellation of the key stage 1 spelling and grammar test.

Hobby told delegates that measuring pupil progress requires schools to assess pupils at the start and end of their time at school. To achieve this, he said, testing should start at the beginning of school, not the middle.

“If we are to have a reception baseline, it has got to be one that works, not the mess that we’ve seen this year,” he said. “And we must ditch statutory assessment altogether at key stage 1.

“We cannot have two high stakes tests for young children. If we truly judge schools on their results, then interim measures have no place in our system. They are an intrusion on the autonomy of school leaders and a sign of distrust.”

Hobby attacked the government over a “constant upheaval of assessment”, with “changes made at such a breakneck speed and at such volume that mistakes are inevitable”.

“A department that cannot publish the right test paper on a website is not a department we can rely on to successfully convert fifteen thousand schools to academies in the next few years,” he said.

“These mistakes are not ‘human errors’ but strategic errors of pace and engagement.”

A government spokesperson said: “We are committed to measuring pupils’ progress through primary school and are continuing to look at the best way of assessing children in the early years. We will engage actively with the profession as we do so.

“At KS1, schools are only required to submit teacher assessments for accountability purposes, not the results of tests. These are just one source of evidence used by teachers when assessing children and should be considered alongside pupils’ work in the classroom.”

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  1. The Early Years Foundation State Profile is already embedded and working. There’s no need to scrap it for disruptive baseline tests especially as the only reason for them is not educational but to provide data from which ‘progress’ can be calculated. This is especially true since the DfE doesn’t know what ‘sufficient progress’ is. Nor does it seem to understand that progress isn’t linear – it steams forward, falls back and stays flat.