Ministers plan ‘school readiness’ test after baseline U-turn

A replacement for baseline assessments likely to be in place by 2017

Ministers are looking at introducing a “schools readiness indicator” next year after abandoning plans to use controversial baseline assessments to hold schools to account.

The Department for Education yesterday published results of a study that found that the three different baseline tests used by schools to measure progress were not reliable.

The U-turn on the use of the controversial tests was widely welcomed by schools and teachers’ leaders, but TES understands that the government intends to bring in a “schools readiness test” in 2017.

The news was contained in a letter from Education Excellence, one of the biggest providers of an observation-only baseline assessment, to more than 11,000 headteachers who use their test.

In the letter, seen by TES, the organisation states that the DfE wants to bring in another new assessment.

“The information we have received direct from the DfE, both verbal and written, indicate the following: [Reception] baseline will no longer be used as an accountability measure; DfE continue to support on-entry assessment and will fund schools who wish to use Education Excellence Baseline Assessment (or one of the other accredited baselines) in September 2016; the government intend to develop a ‘school readiness indicator’ for 2017 with a single provider approach,” the letter states.

TES understands that the DfE has since stepped away from a “single provider approach” to any such school readiness test.

The baseline assessments were designed to be used in the first six weeks of reception class, to assess children’s communication, literacy and numeracy skills. All of the assessments also measure personal, social and emotional development.

Critics said that they had led to children being grouped by ability at a young age, and added to teachers’ workload while giving them little useful information.

Classroom unions said ministers had ignored warnings that the baseline tests could not work, and the decision to pull the plug on them was widely celebrated.

The NASUWT said it was a “significant development”, while the NUT claimed teachers and parents would “take heart from the U-turn”.

But some primary leaders, such as Michael Tidd, a deputy head at a school in Nottinghamshire and a TES News columnist, warned that the government would remain committed to assessments in Reception year.

Don’t get too excited. DfE hasn’t had a change of heart about Early Years. They’ve just discovered that Plan A was a cock-up.
Await Plan B.

— Michael Tidd (@MichaelT1979) April 7, 2016

The DfE declined to comment.

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