Each child’s ‘prior attainment’, as assessed by each Baseline Assessment Test, will be reduced to a number on entry to Reception. Age on entry will be specifically disregarded, despite the huge differences in cognitive development between typical 4 and 5 year olds, the equivalent of treating 12 and 15 years olds as being at the same stage of development. The specification document explicitly states:
The assessment must report a score for each child on a single scale.
· The scores from the assessment must not be age-standardised.
“The purpose of the reception baseline is to support the accountability framework and help assess school effectiveness by providing a score for each child at the start of reception which reflects their attainment against a pre-determined content domain and which will be used as the basis for an accountability measure of the relative progress of a cohort of children through primary.“ (my emphasis).
Six providers have been accredited by the Department for Education to supply Reception Baseline Tests:
· Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring, Durham University (CEM)
· Early Excellence
· GL Assessment
· Hodder Education
· National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER)
· Speech Link
How are these providers selling their products to schools?
Here are key quotes from the providers’ websites:
Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring, Durham University (CEM)
“CEM provides scaled scores direct to you and the DfE. In addition, reporting from BASE will help you to understand:
What each child knows and can do when they join school for the first time
How this relates to the development of other children across England
Whether children have made progress from their starting point (to their end of year assessment)
Whether this progress is in line with expectations
Whether additional support may be indicated”
“The EExBA consists of an initial 'screening' process to assess each child's Well-Being and Involvement using the Leuven Scales and a set of criteria drawn from aspects of the 'Characteristics of Effective Learning and 'Areas of Learning and Development' as detailed in the EYFS statutory framework and supporting guidance. It also builds on YR practitioners' experience of working with the principles and practice of the EYFS Profile and has been designed to provide a continuity of approach with regard to making and moderating the resulting judgements.”
“Designed to be fun, friendly and engaging for pupils, Baseline allows teachers to measure literacy, language and mathematics on entry and, optionally, at the end of Reception. In addition, we are also designing an optional Personal, Social and Emotional Development (PSED) assessment that can be used alongside Baseline. Linked to a number of key EYFS goals (such as self-confidence and managing relationships, behaviour and feelings), this PSED element will provide lasting value to Baseline and will provide even more insight on the development of pupils.”
“Simple to use – no training required
• Full-colour paper assessment – no need for IT equipment or internet access
• Cost-effective – the DfE will cover the whole cost of the Hodder Reception Baseline Assessment in 2015
• Time-efficient – the assessment is designed to measure the cusp of children’s understanding, meaning a shorter test, tailored to each child’s needs
• Provides Extension Assessments and differentiated questions – offers an assessment that caters for a wide ability range
• Free reporting and detailed diagnostic analysis – via our online assessment service, Assessment Plus
• Written and developed by Early Years and Assessment specialists – we have been providing accurate, standardised assessments of Literacy and Maths for over 40 years, based on robust data
National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER)
“Practitioner who knows the child best can be sensitive to each individual child
One-to–one assessment between teacher and child and not focused on ICT
Playful assessment means children do not feel as if they are being assessed
Mixture of tasks and observation checklists to assess communication and language, literacy and numeracy
Calculates scaled scores and age-adjusted scores for each child (in addition to a single overall scaled score)
Easy and quick to administer with everything you need to do the assessment provided
Teacher observations recorded online with a tablet or laptop device or via individual paper pupil record booklet”
“Why do we need to test? Why not just observe?
A child’s understanding of language is a key skill that determines their ability to access the learning environment. Without well developed understanding a child will struggle with all aspects of school life. The understanding of language is not a skill you can observe. If a teacher gives the class an instruction he or she can observe which pupils do not complete it. However when a child does complete the instruction the teacher cannot be sure if the child was following visual cues, or copying their neighbour, or relying on the context or routine. It is not possible to be certain a child has understood the language unless you remove all other cues, in other words assess them.”
Despite widespread concern about the validity and reliability of any assessments of young children voiced by the majority of respondents to the government’s consultation on its plans, Baseline Testing is being introduced as an explicit accountability measure. Those providing the Baseline tests have glossed over this key purpose and implied that the tests are actually formative assessment tools which will benefit schools. Those selling tests to schools have every incentive to accentuate the positive in their products. Those working in schools should know what may not be made explicit.