Alliance supports call to scrap Reception Baseline Assessment and other primary testing

The Early Years Alliance has commented on a call from the More Than A Score coalition to drop primary school assessments, including the Reception Baseline Assessment, which is due to be implemented this September.

Commenting, Neil Leitch, Early Years Alliance chief executive, said:

"There is no justification for pushing ahead with the introduction of the Reception Baseline Assessment, particularly at a time when government claims it is trying to reduce workloads for educators.

"This is a test which does nothing to help either teachers or young children, and has been shown to be far too unreliable to do the one thing it is intended to do, which is measure school performance. It is also needlessly disruptive during the 'setting-in' period, which is so crucial to helping young children transition into a new environment.

"We know that supporting the personal, social and emotional development of under-fives is vital. Given that these are the skills that early years professionals tell us have been the most impacted by the pandemic, the rollout of an assessment that instead focuses on the narrow skills of literacy and mathematics seems particularly short-sighted.

"It is telling that so few parents have raised any concerns about about the suspension of primary testing during the pandemic. We urge the government to take this opportunity to completely rethink its approach to early assessment, cancel the this pointless test and focus instead on helping educators ensure that each individual child gets the support they need."

NOTES TO EDITORS

The More Than a Score coalition's extensive report Drop SATs for good: The case for recovery without high-stakes assessment - published today and available here - is backed by headteachers, academics, children's writers, parents, and several organisations including the Alliance, which also contributed to the report.

More Than a Score is calling on government to:

  1. Pause the introduction of Reception Baseline Assessment (tests for 4-year-olds in English and maths when they start school in September).
  2. Pause SATs and all other statutory assessments in years 1, 2, 4 and 6.
  3. Set up an independent, profession-led review into primary assessment.

The Reception Baseline Assessment:

  • The Reception Baseline Assessment or RBA is a standardised language, communication and literacy, and mathematics test for four-year-olds, carried out during the first six weeks of primary school.
  • The assessment is currently set to be introduced from September 2021, as a replacement for the unpopular Key Stage 1 SATs tests. It comes alongside other changes to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) intended to cut teacher workloads - a goal which the new assessment risks undermining.
  • The tests, which would be carried out by teachers on individual children outside the classroom and last 20–30 minutes, are solely intended to judge the performance of schools, and not to track individual pupils.
  • A survey of school leaders and headteachers carried out by YouGov found that 63% did not think the data would be useful, and just 16% thought the assessments would be a good use of teaching time.
  • The More Than A Score report argues that, following the pandemic is an ideal time to reform the current system, and to put children’s wellbeing at the heart of a recovery programme. This would also offer teachers greater opportunity to bridge any learning gaps created by lockdown.
  • The Case Against Reception Baseline Assessment, is set out in full in section 5 of More Than a Score's report.