Better Without Baseline
A video of NUT members saying why they oppose baseline testing.
The baseline assessment will test children’s abilities in literacy and numeracy within weeks of them entering school in reception. Assessment is part of education, but only when assessments are used to support children, not for 'accountability frameworks'.
We’ve released a statement on the most popular baseline assessment tool Early Excellence. Read about why, although not a formal ‘test’, the Early Excellence baseline is still bad for children and bad for education.
If you agree with us that four is too young to test, find out more about the Better Without Baseline campaign and what you can do to get involved. The NUT is working with a range of organisations, including the Save Childhood Movement, Pre-School Learning Alliance, and Association for the Professional Development of Early Years Educators (TACTYC) to fight for the best interests of children. See how you can get involved by visiting the campaign website.
On this page you’ll find a range of resources to help you in your local campaign under the ‘Campaign Resources’ tab. There are also links to different local campaigns to help you get involved in opposing baseline assessment and provide ideas for things you can do in your area.
What is the baseline assessment?
The baseline assessment is a 1:1 formal test that will take place within a few weeks of them starting school in reception. It will focus on a child’s literacy and numeracy to generate a ‘baseline’ against which to measure progress to Key Stage One and Two. There will be more than one form of test and schools will have to choose a test from a range of approved providers.
The baseline test is due to be introduced from September 2015.
The test is, in theory, optional; however, from 2016 the baseline test 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 test 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.
The Union is opposing the introduction of baseline testing in England. A national baseline test in Wales was withdrawn after teacher opposition.
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.
The NUT is hoping to encourage the Government to change this policy before it is introduced by showing the scale of opposition to the check from teachers, parents and early childhood education researchers.
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.
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.
- 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
There will be 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 will be a story telling and play event in Mayesbrook Park in Dagenham. The event will also be providing 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.
Local campaign materials
National Literacy and Numeracy Tests in Wales
Standardised reading and numeracy tests were introduced in Wales in May 2013. The tests are conducted on children from year 2 until year 9. Data from the tests is collected and analysed nationally, marking an unwelcome return to national testing for the first time since Wales dropped SATs in 2004.
NUT Cymru have opposed these tests since they were introduced sighting concerns about workload as well as the educational impact on children.