The Department for Education has halted its attempts to use the controversial baseline assessments as a progress measure from ‘on entry’ to the end of Key Stage 2.
The well-debated baseline tests were withdrawn due to comparability issues between the three approved assessment systems.
“When the baseline assessment was proposed we were clear that we would carry out a comparability study of the programme. That study has shown that the assessments are not sufficiently comparable to provide a fair starting point from which to measure pupil progress,” a DfE spokesperson said.
“In light of that, we will not be using this year’s results as the baseline for progress measures. This would be inappropriate and unfair to schools.”
The announcement will not be a surprise to many, having seen the original 1998 baseline assessments scrapped in 2002 and given the diversity of the 2015 providers, comparability was near impossible.
The DfE said the current assessments would not become mandatory and that last year’s results would not be used by the DfE for accountability measures. “We remain committed to measuring progress of pupils through primary school and will continue to look at the best way to assess pupils in the early years,” a DfE spokesperson said.
“In the meantime, we will continue to offer the optional baseline assessments for schools to use next year, and while it will not be used for accountability purposes next year, we would encourage schools to use this for their own purposes, for example to identify pupils who may need particular additional support.”
Despite the U-turn, Liz Marsden, director of Early Excellence, one of the three providers, said her company would continue to provide the assessment to schools. “For us, and the whole early years community, learning is defined by more than academic attainment. We need a broad definition that takes into account emotional, mental and physical health, learning behaviours and dispositions.
“We urge the government to incorporate these features into any new assessment beyond 2016,” she said.
Some good news to come from baseline assessments though is the importance of assessing children’s well-being and engagement first (through the Leuven Scales used in the Early Excellence model). The huge value of allowing small children to settle into their new ‘world’ before documenting their early learning skills endorsed what all high calibre practitioners believe already!
For the moment, the EYFS Profile remains statutory for 2016 and may remain into 2017. We shall see!