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Baseline assessment criticised in new report

By Rachel Lawler

child with tablet - baseline assessment
The government’s plans to introduce a baseline assessment for children in their first year of school have been criticised in a report.
Published by the British Educational Research Association (BERA), the report is called ‘A baseline without basis’ and was written by an expert panel.
“Highly unreliable”
It argues that the results of the proposed assessments will be “highly unreliable” and offer “no formative help” in establishing children’s needs or developing strategies to help them.
The report also suggests that the results of the proposed tests will not be properly evaluated until “at least” 2027.
Young children
The report’s authors say that the assessment “is likely to produce results with little predictive power and dubious validity”. They also say that testing such young children is “hard to justify” when not used to support learning.
BERA says: “Ultimately, the reception baseline assessment will do little to help secure positive outcomes for pupils, teachers or parents in either the short or long term.”
Alliance concerns
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, said: "Effective assessment is undoubtedly an important part of the early years, but baseline's narrow focus on easy-to-measure skills - primarily numeracy and literacy - leaves no space for young children to develop the broad foundation they need.
"What's more, as this panel argues, the assessment in its current proposed form is highly likely to produce unreliable and invalid results, as it fails to recognise that young children develop at different paces and doesn't adjust for key factors - such as differences in ages and family background - which are likely to have a significant impact on assessment outcomes. Add to this the fact that teachers and practitioners are likely to become increasingly pressured to 'teach to the test', and it is difficult to see how baseline results will have any real value.
“Policymakers urgently need to ask themselves what it is they hope to achieve with baseline. The policy does nothing to support children's early learning, nor does it achieve its primary goal of assessing school effectiveness. Rather than pushing ahead with such a flawed policy, government should go back to the drawing board on this and look to implement an approach to early assessment that prioritises the child and ensures that the first few years of their educational journeys help them to reach their full potential."
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