Ken Jones, Principal Officer for Curriculum and Assessment, reported to the Education & Equalities Committee this morning on the growing problems the government are facing with the introduction of Baseline Testing.
The vast majority of schools have chosen the Early Excellence model of testing which is based on teacher assessment. This poses a number of problems for the government. Firstly, they were clear that they wanted standardised testing of 4 year olds, not teacher assessment. Secondly, the model they had developed was of free market competition between six commercial companies and this now looks unlikely due to the low uptake of the other five options.
In addition, OFSTED have made a number of criticisms of the reliability of baseline testing. Whilst these come from almost the exact opposite point of view from the NUT approach, it further weaken's the government case.
Finally, the government has been clear that the data will not be reliable at cohort level meaning that even those forcing these tests on children suggest that it should not be used to judge progress within school.
In the face of this, Nick Gibb has been arguing for a reintroduction of standardised testing to replace teacher assessment at KS1.
In spite of all of this, the Early Excellence model still involves giving four-year-olds a numerical score based on a very dubious set of questions and will result in some children being classified as a 'zero' in the first few weeks of school.
On the plus side, the DfE has given us a figure of several thousand schools who have already decided they will not be implementing the Baseline Test. This figure is likely to grow.
Many schools who were implementing the test on the basis that it would protect them from a judgement based purely on attainment are now realising that this is no longer the case. With the introduction of the new definition of 'coasting' schools, all schools will be judged primarily on attainment. For those conducting baseline tests, it looks like they will now be held accountable on both measures and are therefore likely to be more vulnerable.
The union is conducting further research into the impact of Baseline Testing so far. Baseline Testing 'picnics' are continuing to spread across the country and the response of parents engaged through these activities has been overwhelmingly anti-Baseline. The Union has ordered a reprint of the joint NUT/ATL leaflet after tens of thousands have been distributed nationally.
There will be a baseline campaign meeting in Hamilton House from 2pm on 26th September to which activists are invited to attend. For more details, please get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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