Welcome to the early years blog.
In our recent roundup of the latest early years hot topics, we discussed the controversy over the baseline assessment due to be brought into Reception classrooms from this September. This would coincide with the currently used mandatory Early Years Foundation Stage Profile becoming non-statutory. The intended purpose of the new baseline testing was to assess children’s level of development at the beginning of their formal schooling, in order to later measure how they’ve progressed by age 11. This is often referred to as “baseline for progress measures” and “accountability measures.” However, there’s just been a very big development.
The Department for Education and the Standards and Testing Agency carried out an examination of the three new baseline assessment schemes, as a result of the concerns raised by many in the sector. They found that the schemes were not sufficiently comparable to create a fair starting point from which to measure pupils’ progress. This has resulted in a U-turn on the use of the assessments. The Department for Education has announced that, ‘The results cannot be used as the baseline for progress measures, as it would be inappropriate and unfair to schools.’ Schools will still have the option to use the baseline assessments in the 2016 to 2017 academic year if they chose, but the outcomes of these will not be used for accountability.
The decision has been broadly welcomed by the sector. The Better Without Baseline Coalition – made up of many early years organisations and teaching unions who have protested about baseline assessment – is calling for a complete review of assessment and accountability within the early years, and have written an open letter to the Government – you can read it at better without baseline
The Coalition is seeking to work alongside the Department for Education to develop “more carefully thought-through approaches that have the best interests of the child at their heart.” They would like the more holistic, Early Years Foundation Stage Profile to be retained. They have said that, ‘The Early Years Foundation Stage Profile remains a widely respected, meaningful and practical assessment, and should be retained at least until a clear, principled and effective improvement can be introduced.’ You can find out more about the Coalition here http://www.betterwithoutbaseline.org.uk/
On the subject of next steps, the Department for Education has said, ‘Assessing pupils on entry to school is important in ensuring all pupils receive the support they need to achieve their potential regardless of background or circumstance…We remain committed to measuring the progress of pupils through primary school and will continue to look at the best way to assess pupils in the early years. 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.’
With much still to be decided, it’s important for all early years practitioners and students to keep themselves up to date with development announcements.
Until next month,