A Bad Idea

I’m finding it impossible to narrow down all the reasons why the baseline test is a bad idea, so I didn’t bother. Here’s my starter for ten. Feel free to add more in the comments.

1. It takes the class teacher away from the class during the vital settling in period.
2. It is a measure done over a 7 year time span – who knows what will change in that time?
3. Four year olds are not in compulsory education.
4. Children who have EAL will be disadvantaged by a test that is done in English.
5. If it is locked away it cannot be used to identify children who might need support.
6. There are many unanswered questions around how the data will be handled and used.
7. £10 million pounds is being used for a test lots of people oppose at a time of budget cuts.
8. All children will get tested, but the data not used for infant, middle or junior schools.
9. Settings may respond to the measure by gaming it in various ways.
10. Everyone who works in early years is saying that the data will not be reliable.

And oh yeah, whoops, I almost forgot. Will someone please think of the children?


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10 Responses to A Bad Idea

  1. Michael Tidd says:

    I’m sure you don’t want my views, but here are my thoughts:
    1. Some potential merit in this point – remains to be seen quite what is expected for the administration of the assessment.
    2. Why does this matter? It would affect all children equally.
    3. But they are in statutory education. If parents don’t want to take up the offer of a Reception place, they’re welcome not to.
    4. Disadvantaged how? There are no prizes for a baseline check.
    5. EY people keep saying that it would be inaccurate or not tell them anything they don’t already know, so why would this matter?
    6. Probably safe to presume that it’ll be like all other assessment data collected by the DfE. Is your objection to all data collection?
    7. And KS1 tests will be scrapped. If it breaks even will you be okay with it?
    8. It just won’t be *published* for those schools. That’s not to say or wouldn’t be used at all.
    9. That’s already the case with the EYFSP. I don’t see anyone campaigning to scrap that.
    10. I don’t know how accurate their argument is. I’d suggest pushing to see the DfE compare results from 2015 baselines to this year’s KS1 results. Maybe they will prove your point here. Maybe not.

    Liked by 2 people

    • suecowley says:

      Thanks for your views!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Viki Bennett says:

      Interesting. My thoughts are:

      Your point 3 is disingenuous. Parents have very little choice about their child starting school at 4 or not as the narrative concerning this (preschool, school readiness, big school, free childcare, limited school places) is so powerful that in practice the choice disappears.

      Point 4. EAL children could be disadvantaged by being in a test situation with someone, the teacher, whom they should be able to trust. Children know when they are failing, even if someone is smiling at them. Good teachers will do their best to counter this but a test positions the teacher and child against each other which is dangerous at such an intense time. This is the case for all children of course.

      Point 5. Taken with the original 10 points and my points here, there is no need to do it then. We have secure and respectful ways of getting to know children such as through observation and genuine engagement with parents. This means that teachers and schools can address children’s holistic needs extremely well.

      Liked by 2 people

    • 1. Administering a test one by one WILL take the teacher away from the class at a very vital time for settling in. Developmental psychology shows that emotional well-being is intrinsic to learning and progress, so this test IS damaging to children compared to collecting assessment by playing alongside and observation.
      2. Actually some schools are significantly more affected by a transient population. Some schools have significantly higher incidence of social care removals, domestic violence, crime, inadequate housing, poverty – so it is not equal… at all.
      3. Not all parents are articulate and knowledgeable enough to navigate this system. Many children will be ‘done to’ without their parents understanding what it is. Not all parents choose like you think they do.
      4. Children with EAL, especially those with no English at all, are typically and understandably very upset in first few days/ weeks. The fact that staff will be unavailable to help settle them due to demands of the test will make it more difficult for them to develop attachments and settle, making them disadvantaged compared to the rest of the cohort who don’t need additional support in this way.
      5. To lock away a test result that may be able to be used to inform planning and meeting next steps is basically unethical. The test is exploitation of very young children’s first few days / weeks at school with sole purpose of school accountability. The purpose of school and education is NOT to create system for political gaming. It is to educate and support children. Baseline does not contribute to this.
      6. Well yes – The whole Facebook data issue brings the whole nature of collecting data in schools into question. Is it ok that a teacher may have lost their job because my child had an OCD panic attack the night before his SATs test? The whole area needs reviewing and ethical guidelines need to be developed. This question has far reaching implications.
      7. What do you mean by breaks even? Should a baseline show no progress?? This shows the folly in trying to use a test that is guesswork at best, unproven to be reliable or even link to later outcomes, to measure schools. And to waste £10million when cuts are biting hard into vulnerable families and children’s future is wrong.
      8. Again – issues over access to data and using unproven and unreliable data to make judgements is foolish. To pay £10million for it is being irresponsible with public money.
      9. EYFSP is an assessment of child development at the end of the foundation stage. It is not perfect, definitely not, but there are robust systems of moderation and CPD for teachers to support reliability. Most of the assessment for EYFSP is collected through unobtrusive observation and working and playing alongside children. It captures development across a far wider range of development markers than just narrow academic markers. The broad range of EYFSP areas and the focus on the prime areas helps prevent the narrowing of the curriculum and ensure that the vital developmental stages, PSED, C&L, physical development are supported in schools. The Baseline cannot even touch on this. Inevitably in time nursery schools will be judged on their Baseline scores of cohorts that leave them, which will only encourage loss of the essential provision for early cognitive, language, emotional and physical development.
      10. Yes it would be interesting to see the comparison. I know in my school that our 2015 Baseline was very low (7% at typical) and it is way off the progress & attainment the children are now making. So for us it is way off. However any correlation in other schools would also need much more statistical analysis. The variables that affect a child’s progress are huge, wide, broad and deep and erratic.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. julieanneda says:

    I fail to see any logical reason to spend so much money on a test which has data at it’s centre not children. Especially when so many Children’s Centres are being closed. Surely to benefit children who are disadvantaged is more of an essential than collecting data from ticklists?

    Liked by 3 people

    • chrismwparsons says:

      Well, arguably, anything which improves the ‘school system’ is done to benefit children. They don’t need to be rapid direct beneficiaries of every initiative for it to be in the interests of children like them in the long run.


  3. Julie Rees says:

    I worry about the breakdown of support from birth to five. We are crying out for Children Centre Services so I am appalled by the amount of money which is being spent on these tests. EYFS is about developing communication, physical, personal and social skills and a thirst for learning. This can only be done in a highly inclusive environment where all staff are given the time to engage with pupils as people, not data.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Pat Stone says:

    Many 4 year olds will not show off their true abilities in any sort of test because they may not be used to being open with strangers.
    It will be to schools’ benefit if lots of children come out ‘low’ so they will look to have made more progress later.
    Different schools will put different amounts of effort into trying to get best possible responses from children.
    Govt will be making statements about the country’s 4 year olds that will not necessarily be true. Parents and families and pre-schools will be blamed for low results.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. mike2all says:

    The way of the world seems to be that we unconditionally accept any daft ideas as long as they have been put in place by those who think they know better. Even the Will of the People can be wrong, but will not change (Brexit).

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: The Firmest Foundations | Freeing the Angel

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