A baseline without basis: The validity and utility of the proposed reception baseline assessment in England
4 July 2018
In the panel’s view the proposed baseline assessment will not lead to accurate or fair comparisons being made between schools for the following reasons.
- Any value-added calculations that will be used to hold school to account will be highly unreliable.
- Children will be exposed to tests that will offer no formative help in establishing their needs and/or in developing teaching strategies capable of meeting them.
- This is an untried experiment that cannot be properly evaluated until at least 2027, when the first cohort tested at reception has taken key stage 2 tests.
The panel argues that the tests cannot be accurate or fair because:
- just a few month’s difference in age in the early years produces pronounced developmental differences, yet plans for the RBA do not take this properly into account
- pupil cohorts within primary schools are statistically small, and often have uneven distributions of younger and older children, which makes it hard to draw valid comparisons between schools
- pupil mobility, teacher turnover, and the likelihood of a change in head teacher will all muddy the issue of accountability – either pupil data will be missing, or schools may be held to account for pupils they have not taught continuously in the seven years since the data was first collected
- it is widely recognised that a range of contextual factors – such as parents’ educational levels, family income and having English as an additional language – affect both attainment and relative attainment, but under the government’s current proposals no such factors will be taken into account.