I am concerned that the Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA) will be bad for children, bad for parents and bad for teachers.
In 2017, the Government ran a consultation on Primary Assessment in England, which looked at moving the baseline assessment to reception to cover the time a child is in primary school. The consultation response outlined a commitment to introducing a baseline assessment in reception by autumn 2020.
The assessment will be taken by all children within six weeks of entering reception and will focus on maths, literacy, communication and development. The results are intended to be the starting point to assess how much progress schools are making with their pupils.
In a survey carried out by the ‘More Than A Score’ campaign, 65% of parents opposed children being tested in English and maths when they first start school. I am also aware that a survey conducted by University College London found that 86% of headteachers were negative about the RBA.
I believe that when teachers are forced to ‘teach to the test’, narrowing down the range of learning to core parts of core subjects to get through exams, it does not help pupils.
Children must have a rich and varied education. There is evidence that when children are encouraged to be creative, they do better at the core elements of literacy and numeracy too. It is vital that children are prepared for life, not just for exams.
I believe the Government should abolish the RBA and should consult with teaching unions, parents and experts to bring forward proposals for a new system that separates the assessment of schools from the assessment of children. This should aim to understand the learning needs of each child and encourage a rounded education.
I was pleased to see that the Government has delayed the introduction of the RBA until Autumn 2021, after listening to the concerns of teachers, parents and MPs. However, the Government has unfortunately reiterated its support for the idea of the RBA and still supports its implementation.
I have written to the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, to raise these concerns with him and to ask him to scrap the RBA and the testing culture in schools, and have published a copy of this letter below.
I was elected on a manifesto that called for the abolition of the RBA and I stand by this commitment. I can assure you that my Opposition colleagues and I will continue to urge the Government to end the testing culture of schools by scrapping baseline assessments and refocusing on supporting pupil progress.