Reception Baseline Assessments

Blog: Claire Flynn, Primary Development Lead

Reception Baseline Assessments

Posted: 10/04/15

Reception has become the latest area where assessment is being reformed and everyone is talking about the new baseline assessments.

From September 2016, the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Profiles will no longer be compulsory (however the EYFS itself will still remain statutory) and schools can choose to complete a baseline assessment instead. Some schools have already researched the options and have signed up to one of the new baseline assessments so it can be piloted in their school from as early as September 2015.

Why now?

These baseline assessments are going to be used to improve how the Department of Education measures progress from Reception to the end of KS2.

The ‘why now’ question, however, can be answered by asking ‘why not now?’

What are the assessments?

The Standards and Testing Agency (STA) have approved six providers for this baseline assessment. These providers offer varied approaches to assessment so that teachers and schools can choose an approach that is best suited to their needs. The six baseline assessment providers are:

  1. The Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring
  2. Early Excellence
  3. GL Assessment
  4. Hodder Education
  5. National Foundation for Educational Research
  6. Speech Link

What and how do they assess?

Each baseline assesses both literacy and maths with most of them having an option to assess PSED. However, the way in which they assess varies greatly, so schools will need to take due care when selecting one for their pupils.

We had a look through each of the providers’ websites to see which assessment we favoured, and as we did so, several questions came to mind. Here are a few of our thoughts from reviewing the assessments, and we would encourage you to think similarly when considering which is best for your school.

The sample pages from one assessment provider uses pictorial images in an assessment book and asks pupils to point to the bees and count them (there are five bees). We thought it strange that there is no mention of allowing pupils to use concrete resources when doing so. This also has lower and higher extension tasks to complete if desired, such as to write down the number that is one more than 11. This, to us, felt more like a reading and handwriting task, as it mostly indicates that the child has a good memory and good fine motor skills if completed successfully. Additionally, what was most interesting about these extension tasks was that the lower tasks only use concrete resources and higher tasks only use the abstract. This makes us wonder – are concrete resources seen as ‘too easy’ for higher attainers and abstract seen as ‘too hard’ for lower attainers?  We don’t think so!

Another assessment uses only the pictorial approach (from what we can see on their website) and is completed using a tablet. There is no reference made to assessing through concrete resources and tasks, which is something we at Mathematics Mastery think is vital to consider.

Reception is a year where a lot of the mathematical learning takes place during play and this made us wonder why more providers have not pursued this assessment route, where teachers use meaningful questions and interactions in order to gauge a child’s level of understanding. This would surely be more in line with the National Curriculum where depth of knowledge plays such a key part. One provider – Early Excellence – does seem to be thinking along these lines, but their assessment requires teachers to make observations and use their judgement against up to 47 different statements…which might be a little daunting!

Which one should I choose?

After researching the six assessments we found that we had more questions than answers. Most of the providers allow schools to sign up for a demo, which we would certainly recommend, so that schools can clearly see the full extent of the assessment, what it assesses and how it assesses.

Schools need to carefully consider which assessment will best fit their learning environment and will give them a real and meaningful measure of progress at the end of KS2.