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Baseline assessments planned for September have been dropped

Friday, 8 April 2016
Plans for baseline assessment for Reception classes will not start in September after a comparability study concludes that the 3 different assessments available 'are not sufficiently comparable to create a fair starting point from which to measure pupils' progress.' 
There will be a feeling of great relief among Reception teachers knowing that they will not have to complete these baseline assessments with their children in September. Also for the wider school, this removes the concerns that these results would be used to decide a school's added value, when compared with the end of KS2.

Research on the pilot tests from last September was critical of the baseline assessments finding them unreliable and disruptive. Now a lack of standardization and consistency between the private companies seems to have forced the Department for Education into a u-turn on their plans for these baseline assessments.

In these times of cutbacks and austerity it will be interesting if the full costs of this project will be published. The three publishers selected to provide the baseline assessments will have committed a great amount to get these resources ready.

Then there is also the amount of time that schools and teachers have already spent on looking at the options and selecting the most appropriate. Many Reception teachers may have spent time preparing themselves for the changes in September.

However, perhaps we should just be relieved that a system with so many problems is not being introduced. 

What happens now?

Schools can still sign up and use the the baseline assessments in 2016-7 as part of their on-entry assessment of Reception children. However, and most importantly, they will not used as the starting point for measuring progress. End of KS1 will continue as the starting point from which to measure progress to KS2. 

Please read the updated STA's and DfE's joint guidance yourself, but it seems that if you decide to continue it will still be funded. 

So should your school opt-in or opt-out of baseline assessment for 2016-7?

This final paragraph is from STA's and DfE's joint press release 7 April 2016:

Assessment is a key part of the education system and remains crucial to ensuring that every child fulfils their potential. Over the coming months we will be considering options for improving assessment arrangements in Reception beyond 2016 to 2017 and will make an announcement in due course.

If they are making changes to the systems already in place, then you may be getting to grips with a new system that will only last for one year. It will depend on how much the assessments change, if there are only small changes then you would benefit. Another consideration is how much preparation you have already completed. It would give you a chance to try a system without the pressure of the results being used as a starting point for measuring progress. It you think they will be useful for your own formative assessment, then of course they will be of value. 

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