Baseline has ‘dubious validity’, say academics

The government-proposed baseline test for four- and five-year-olds is “ethically and methodologically questionable” and has “dubious validity” a new report from leading education academics says today. Tes reports

The report A Baseline Without Basisfrom an expert panel convened by the British Educational Research Association (BERA), says that the government’s proposal to introduce the test is “flawed, unjustified and wholly unfit for purpose”.

The report says the initiative, which is due to be piloted in 2019 and rolled out in 2020, could even lead to nursery children being “coached” for the tests.

Children will take the tests in the first few weeks of Reception, and the aim is to use the results as a baseline for measuring children’s progress, on a school level, between Reception and Year 6.

The government has said the baseline tests would not be used in any way to measure performance in the early years – or to track individual pupils.

But the report states that producing a single number from a short test covering three areas is “misguided” and it points out that “it is hard to justify” giving children tests which do not support their learning.

The panel says that the proposed baseline assessment, which will cost around £10 million to introduce, will not lead to accurate or fair comparisons being made between schools because summer-born children will not be taken into account, pupil cohorts within primary schools are statistically small and there is no recognition of different school contexts.

Beatrice Merrick, chief executive of early years organisation Early Education, said “It is sheer folly for the government to persist with plans to introduce a Reception baseline assessment if it cannot provide valid and reliable data,” she said. “Holding schools to account on the basis of flawed data will do nothing to improve standards in schools.” 

Read more Baseline has ‘dubious validity’, say academics

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