Friday, 15 May 2015

Baseline testing - what it is and why you should be worried

We're pleased to host a guest blog from Katie Lindenburg, Primary school teacher, NUT member and mother, about the new Baseline tests for 4 year olds...
What are the Baseline Tests for 4 year olds?

From September 2016, all schools in England will be required to use standardised baseline tests to assess children in their first few weeks of Reception.  (Many schools will be piloting the tests from September 2015.) This is despite considerable expert opposition and the recommendations of the Government’s own consultation process.  Baseline Testing was introduced in 1997 and withdrawn in 2002 as it proved unworkable and a similar scheme was found to be ineffective and scrapped in Wales in 2012.

Schools have been given six different options for the test, all provided by private companies.  The assessments are carried out 1:1 between teacher and child with most options requiring children to answer questions on a computer screen.  Most tests have right and wrong answers, with no room for teacher intervention.  If a child gets a question wrong, the teacher must move on.  Each child’s attainment will be measured against a ‘pre-determined content domain’, resulting in them getting a raw score which will be used the ‘baseline’ against which all future attainment will be measured.  So, the score a child a child receives in his or her first weeks of Reception are supposed to indicate their attainment in end of Key Stage 2 SATs tests 7 years later!

Why should we oppose the baseline tests?

-          The tests are going to be extremely disruptive.  Entering Reception is a huge transition for children.   In order for this transition to be as smooth as possible, teachers should be building supportive relationships with their pupils, not focussing on tests. 

-          The tests will be statistically misleading.  The assessments are based on a very narrow checklist of basic skills and knowledge and take absolutely no account of the different ways and rates at which children develop.  No account will be taken of a child’s age.  As every parent and teacher knows, there can be a huge difference between a child who has just turned four and one who is about to turn 5. 

-          The tests will place pressure on schools to ‘teach to the test’.  The curriculum will inevitably be squeezed and distorted as result of this pressure, detracting from the rich, playful, exploratory and creative environment we should be fostering in the Early Years.  It will add to the current downgrading of play and is likely to prioritise measurable academic achievement in literacy and numeracy over physical, social and emotional, and intellectual development

-          The tests will be harmful to parent – school partnerships.  If schools decide to share the results of the assessments with parents, then they could potentially be told that their child is a ‘failure’ in their first weeks of school.  It also opens up limitless opportunities for private companies to cash in on parental worries with preparatory materials, practice tests and tutoring.

-          The tests are not based on the needs of children.  The results of the tests are not going to provide meaningful or useful information to teachers of parents and carers in terms of progress or attainment.  They are driven by accountability measures and will be another stick to beat schools with.  Undoubtedly, the baseline results will also be used to determine teachers’ pay.

What can you do?
Members of the local NUT will be out campaigning regularly and asking parents, teachers and those who care about children to join us.

·         Join our Facebook page – Scrap Baseline Test for 4 Year Olds (Waltham Forest)

·         Sign a postcard and send it in to your school to let them know you are unhappy with the tests (these will be available at our events)

·         Join us at events in the local area to let parents know why we are opposed to these tests.  We will be in Lloyd Park on Sunday 17th May for a picnic, play and information session, with very special guest Michael Rosen.

If you want to get involved please contact us via Facebook or email