Children should emerge from the early years as curious about the world around them, and confident in themselves as learners. The NUT supports a play based curriculum during early years education which supports the development of children intellectual, physical, personal social and emotional skills through both child and adult initiated and led activities.
Started a petition calling on Education Secretary Nicky Morgan to scrap the baseline assessment
Produced a baseline Q&A for parents
Campaigning also includes:
Research with ATL into the impact of baseline assessment (to be carried out September 2015)
Leaflets for parents on baseline assessment. Copies can be ordered from email@example.com (please supply a name, address and contact telephone along with the quantity required).
A critique of the most popular baseline assessment provided by Early Excellence, and responses to arguments used to defend the provider.
What is the baseline assessment?
The baseline assessment is a 1:1 formal test that takes place within a few weeks of them starting school in reception. It focuses on a child’s literacy and numeracy to generate a score for the child against which to measure progress to Key Stage One and Two. There are three different providers schools can use to administer the baseline assessment.
Baseline Assessment was brought in to primary schools in England from September 2015. Although the baseline is not statutory schools have been under heavy pressure to sign up to a provider. From 2016 the baseline assessment will be the only method the DfE will use to measure the progress of children from reception to the end of Key Stage Two.
If a school chooses not to administer the baseline they will be considered ‘failing’ unless 85% of their pupils reach the expected level at the end of Key Stage Two, irrespective of their intake. The vast majority of schools do not currently meet this threshold.
Most schools have opted in to baseline assessment, with the majority choosing to use the provider ‘Early Excellence’. However, around 2,000 schools have decided not to administer the baseline assessment on children entering reception this year.
Why does the Union oppose the baseline testing?
The NUT believes that teachers should be allowed to exercise their professional judgement in how best to support the children they teach. Teachers should be able to establish the capabilities and development needs of children in a way that is appropriate for that child and that does not label children as failing or below expected levels from the start.
Researchers believe it is likely a baseline check will be unreliable and statistically invalid due to the age of the children and the fact they will be in a new and unfamiliar setting. There are also concerns the check will be damaging to children’s wellbeing, engagement and attitudes to learning.
A 1:1 test will be time consuming and impact on the time school staff can spend settling children, most of whom will still only be four, into their new environment and routine.
Early years settings will need to resist the pressure to narrow their focus in order to prepare children for the test, and families may face anxiety and confusion if their child is found to be ‘failing’.
The Union believes that teachers need to protect reception children starting school from the stress and potential damage to their wellbeing, engagement and attitudes to learning of having to undergo formal testing.
Who is involved in the campaign against baseline testing?
The NUT is not alone in opposing baseline testing and in believing that there is a fundamental contradiction between the principles of early education and administering a formal assessment of four year olds as they enter school. A wide range of organisations, from professionals and academics to parents, are coming together to challenge the government's notion that a test of children as they start school is beneficial in any way.
These presentations from the Save Childhood Movement, Early Education and TACTYC demonstrate why baseline testing is damaging to children, why it doesn't help teachers and early years professionals, and also why it is an ineffective accountability measure. Union members are welcome to use them in their school and local association.
Birmingham NUT held a 'Too Young to Test' picnic in Cannon Hill Park on Saturday 27 June.
Barking & Dagenham
As part of the borough's Play Days on Wednesday 29 July there was a story telling and play event in Mayesbrook Park in Dagenham. The event also provided parents with information on baseline testing and the campaign against it.
Michael Rosen was guest speaker at a National Children’s Day picnic and play event. You can watch a video of his speech on baseline testing here.
A parents’ Facebook group has been set up to keep parents and teachers informed of the local campaign.
Campaign stalls have been held, including at a rally to commemorate the Miners strikes in Kent.
Nottingham have held stalls, produced local leaflets, held a National Children’s Day picnic and collected email addresses to notify people of future events and activities. They have also set up a parents Facebook group for their local campaign.
Cambridge held a picnic and play session on national children’s day to show why four is too young to test.
Cambridge will host a seminar with David Whitebread, a speaker from the Primary Charter and the Summer Born Campaign, on June 10. Cambridge are using guest speakers to make links with local radio to help spread the campaign to the wider public and engage new supporters.
Natalie Bennett, Leader of the Green Party, visited Cambridge to support the campaign of a local candidate in county council elections who has said she would argue against baseline testing on the council in her manifesto.
Lambeth have held stalls in the local community to speak to the public about why children are better without baseline.
The importance of play in the Foundation Stage is embedded in its curriculum guidance. However, from the earliest stages of education the emphasis has increasingly been placed on formal learning and assessment, particularly of literacy and numeracy. This narrow vision of education is squeezing play-based learning out of the curriculum, despite the fact that children are still in their early years of development.