Better Without Baseline
A video of NUT members saying why they oppose baseline testing.
The impact of Baseline Assessment report launch
‘They are children not robots, not machines: the introduction of reception Baseline Assessment’
The evening launch event of the hard-hitting, highly effective baseline research report, commissioned jointly by the NUT and the ATL will take place on Thursday 25 February 6-8.30pm at the Courtauld Institute at Somerset House (nearest tube station: Temple). This follows on from the launch to the press on Thursday 4 February.
Speakers at the event will include Christine Blower, Mary Bousted (General Secretary, ATL), Nancy Stewart (TACTYC), and Guy Roberts- Holmes (researcher at the UCL Institute of Education and one of the authors of the report).
The event is free to attend and we would very much like as many members as possible to attend, especially those who have experience of using baseline assessment last term, and those who’ve been active in the campaign against it. We hope the event will give us a chance to discuss the campaign’s next steps, in schools, with parents, and more widely.
If you would like to attend please email firstname.lastname@example.org to secure your place.
National Campaign Update
The joint campaign has:
- Launched the Better Without Baseline website.
- Written to the Education Select Committee to express concerns about the baseline assessment
- Distributed postcards for parents to send to their MP about baseline assessment. Postcards can be ordered via the joint campaign website, or by emailing email@example.com
- Delivered a petition signed by teachers and parents calling for a scrapping of baseline assessment to the DfE
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org (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.
Baseline assessment has been widely criticised by individuals and organisations working in early years and primary education. Dame Alison Peacock, head teacher and government advisor has said that she will not be running the baseline in her school. Ofsted have also been critical of the policy and its potential impact on disadvantaged children, and Schools Minister Nick Gibb has expressed doubts about the scheme's stated purpose of school accountability.
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.
We have signed an open letter alongside TACTYC, Early Education, Save Childhood Movement, Early Childhood Forum, Cathy Nutbrown, NAPE, ATL and others voicing our opposition to baseline testing. Read more arguments against baseline testing here.
Writer and teacher trainer Sue Cowley has written an analysis of the flaws in the rationale behind baselines assessment and a critique of the tests approved by the DfE for use as baseline assessments.
Pam Jarvis, in an In this article titled 'Neurons and Narratives: The Human Need for Free Play in Early Years Development', argues that an overwhelming body of evidence indicates that the provision of time and space for collaborative free play is a non-negotiable developmental requirement for young children. See expertview.
- Least bad is not good enough
- Why the NUT says NO to Baseline Testing
- Baseline test model letters
- NUT briefing on the reception baseline and privatisation
- Examples of baseline assessment testing materials
- Baselline testing myths
- Better without baseline
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.
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.