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Better without Baseline Coalition Open Letter calls for review of early assessment

In response to the government’s recent U-turn on baseline assessment, a coalition of teaching unions and leading early years organisations has now issued an open letter calling for a review of assessment and accountability policymaking for the early years. This follows a year of active opposition to the introduction of baseline assessment, as well as the publication of the Better Without Baseline media pack that provided detailed arguments and evidence contesting the DfE’s original plans.

The coalition urges retaining the more holistic Early Years Foundation Stage Profile and is offering to work with the DfE to develop more carefully thought-through approaches that have the best interests of the child at their heart.

The letter welcomes the government’s recent statement, but highlights concerns that the DfE has made this decision through a preoccupation with data comparability, rather than child development and wellbeing. It also highlights the fact that the DfE has persistently ignored the evidence that commercial baseline schemes represent:

  • a waste of public money in a time of austerity
  • a waste of teachers’ valuable time
  • disruption to the settling-in period in the reception year
  • potential damage by attaching simplistic labels to children
  • a narrowed curriculum focus with potential negative effects on children’s early experiences and on parental involvement and confidence
  • an inability to provide an accurate or useful picture of children’s current development or to predict their future attainment. 

The recent study by UCL Institute of Education revealed that schools and children had already been negatively impacted by the introduction. Only seven percent of the teachers surveyed felt that Baseline Assessment was an accurate and fair way of assessing children and 85% believed that it was unnecessary and had increased their workload.

In a statement accompanying the release of the letter Wendy Ellyatt, Chief Executive of the Save Childhood Movement, said

"We welcome the government announcement, but are concerned that lessons should be learned when considering the way forward. It is unfortunate that in cancelling the baseline scheme the DfE emphasis has been on the lack of data comparability, rather than the impact on child wellbeing. We also think serious questions should be asked about how much this has cost in terms of time and money, let alone the impact on schools and teachers, when all the evidence and expert advice suggested that it was the wrong thing to do.”

Read the open letter, signed by PACEY, here.