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This is the new website for the Early Childhood Forum (ECF), which brings together national organizations and professional associations in the early childhood sector for all young children from birth to seven. ECF exists to promote inclusion, challenge inequalities, debate issues, celebrate differences and develop consensus to champion high quality experiences for young children and their families.

News & Events

Challenging the evidence on the new baseline test in reception

On 11 April, school standards minister Nick Gibb announced that the National Foundation for Educational Research would be developing ‘baseline’ assessments for reception-age children. Gibb said:


‘This quick, simple assessment will help us to capture the progress that children make throughout primary school and provides a fairer measure for school accountability.’

What Gibb does not mention is that the overwhelming evidence is that assessments at this age, especially if they are quick and simple, are unreliable. Results are heavily dependent on how old the child is; they cannot make accurate assessments in the case of children who speak English as a second language. This makes them particularly unsuitable for use as instruments for accountability, by which Gibb means rankings or league-tables of schools.

Teachers are, of course, continually assessing their children in a ‘formative’ sense in order to improve their learning. But the use of reception baseline assessment data for this purpose has been explicitly ruled out by Gibb. The assessment is purely to be used as a prior starting point estimate in order to ‘adjust’ key stage 2 test scores so that schools can then be compared in terms of their pupils’ progress.

‘The present proposals are not fit for purpose. We urge the government to think again.’

Gibb’s announcement says nothing about how the scheme is to be evaluated. In fact we do know, from analysis of data from the government’s own national pupil database, that at secondary school level an equivalent scheme – which uses the interval from year-6 key stage 2 tests to year-11 exam results – raises serious problems (Leckie and Goldstein, 2017). Attempts to compare secondary schools using ‘value added’ progress measures are unreliable, and are of very little use for parental choice of schools – not least because they are out of date by many years. They cannot be used to make scientifically defensible distinctions between schools.

This is a fundamental measurement problem that will be even more problematic in the case of the proposed baseline assessments, given both the longer time-lag between reception baseline and key stage 2 outcomes and the much smaller number of children in each primary school in comparison to those in each secondary school. A proper evaluation of baseline assessment could only be made after the first cohort of children has passed through primary school – that is, not until 2027 – but already the evidence strongly suggests that the new proposals will turn out to be of little use.

The present proposals are not fit for purpose. We urge the government to think again. Otherwise, the policy will turn out to be a pointless exercise and a wasteful use of public funds.

Professor Gemma Moss
, UCL Institute of Education and past president, British Educational Research Association
Professor Harvey Goldstein, University of Bristol
Professor Pam Sammons, University of Oxford and senior research fellow, Jesus College, Oxford
Gwen Sinnott, education consultant and past president of the London Education Research Network
Emeritus Professor Gordon Stobart, UCL Institute of Education

Members of BERA’s expert panel convened to consider the viability of baseline assessment for school accountability.

The panel will publish a ‘BERA Baseline Briefing’ statement in June 2018.


Leckie G and Goldstein H (2017) ‘The evolution of school league tables in England 1992–2016: “Contextual value-added”, “expected progress” and “progress 8”’, British Educational Research Journal 43(2): 193–212


More Than A Score


The NUT have sent this email to all interested parties:
 NUT morethanascore <morethanascore@nut.org.uk>
Date: 10 April 2018
Subject: Contribute to More Than a Score's campaign to

change primary assessment

Dear Colleague

2018 has seen More Than a Score step up our activities: we have made strong links with parliamentarians, including Shadow Early Years Minister Tracy Brabin, who held a launch for our publication Baseline Assessment: Why It Doesn’t Add Up in the House of Commons; and our message is making it into the media, with the TES, the Independent and Nursery World all giving us coverage.

The climate around primary assessment is changing, with widespread calls for a new assessment system.  In the last weeks, CBI president Paul Drechsler has called on policymakers to “dump the ideology - no more fixation on school structures and exam reform”, and the Liberal Democrats have set out their position: “to end ‘teaching to the test’, by scrapping existing mandatory SATs tests at both KS1 and KS2, and replace the them with a formal, moderated teacher assessment at the end of each phase and

some lighter touch testing.”  This weekend we achieved coverage in the TES of our campaign against baseline, while the Independent covered the template SATs withdrawal letter created by More Than a Score member Let Our Kids Be Kids.

In the coming weeks we will be releasing new films arguing the case against SATs, and sending a copy of Baseline Assessment: Why It Doesn’t Add Up to every primary head teacher in the country.  We’re sure that we can make a significant contribution to changing primary assessment for the better.  But continuing to grow the campaign will require significant resources.

So, as agreed at the More Than a Score meeting in November, we are writing to you as a member of the coalition to ask if you can make a financial contribution.  This is not a condition of membership: we understand that not every organisation will be able to donate. But any contribution of whatever size will help us increase the reach and effectiveness of the campaign.

If you are able to make a contribution you can transfer funds directly to the More Than a Score bank account.  Details are below.

Lloyds Bank

Account name: More Than a Score

Account number: 31607460

Sort code: 309191

Yours sincerely

Ivan Kirby

Policy Officer Primary and Early Years Education

National Education Union – NUT Section

Email: ivan.kirby@neu.org.uk

Tel: 020 7380 4724

ECF Early Childhood Forum