Assessment is part of education, but only when assessments are used to support children, not for 'accountability frameworks'.
If you think four is too young to test, join the thousands of people calling on Nicky Morgan to scrap baseline testing and sign the petition.
We have produced letter templates for teachers to give to head teachers, parents and governors to explain why they are opposing baseline testing, and why they believe that their school should not become an early adopter of baseline testing in September 2015.
There are two alternative versions of the letters to governors, heads and parents. Version 1 should be used where schools have not already opted in to the September 2015 tests, Version 2 where they have opted in.
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 A national baseline test in Wales was withdrawn after teacher opposition.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.