Replacing baseline with two tests would be ‘the final straw’, heads warn

Division in government means that two separate primary assessments are on the table

Any plans to bring in two new sets of national assessments for primary pupils would be the “straw that broke the camel’s back”, heads’ leaders have warned.

TES understands that the government is looking at bringing in two assessments following last week’s decision to scrap the controversial baseline measure for infants.

The major U-turn by the Department for Education was a cause for celebration among teachers, but ministers are now anxious to find new ways of holding schools to account and measuring the progress of pupils.

As TES revealed last week, DfE officials have told test providers that they intend to introduce a new “school readiness indicator” for children in Reception.

But it is understood that parallel proposals for new tests at key stage 1 are also on the table. A well-placed source told TES that the introduction of national tests for seven-year-olds was “definitely going to happen…it is just a matter of when”.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of heads’ union the NAHT, warned that introducing two separate tests would be “strongly opposed” by his members and parents.

‘Like a ton of bricks’

“It would go down like a ton of bricks, to be honest,” he said. “It would be a massive increase in the amount of high stakes testing for very young children.”

It is understood that there is deep division at the heart of the government about what should happen next for primary assessment.

Officials within Number 10 heavily favour the test for Reception-aged children, while ministers at the DfE are thought to prefer reintroducing national tests at key stage 1.

Mr Hobby said a compromise that resulted in the introduction of both “could well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back”. “I think they have some troubles on this one,” he added.

DfE officials are expected to meet assessment experts next week to discuss how best to move forward with testing at primary level.

Sources close to education secretary Nicky Morgan said they were “not ruling anything out” when it came to primary assessment, in terms of tests at both key stage 1 and Reception.

This is an edited version of an article in the 15 April edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full article here. This week’s TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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