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Is baseline really so bad?

By Catherine Kirkup

Consider two scenarios. In the first, a reception practitioner (teacher or teaching assistant) takes children aside one by one to listen to them ‘read’. For some children this means seeing if they understand that print conveys meaning, if they can point to the words on the page and understand that they relate to the pictures alongside, or if the book engages them. For other children, further ahead in their reading development, the practitioner considers which letters or words they can recognise or sound out, or their interest in and level of understanding of what they are reading. Continue reading


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Reading is easy – so why bother to assess phonological awareness in young children?

By Diane King

We live in a society that places a high value on literacy skills and, if nothing else, we expect schools to teach our children to read and write. However, literacy difficulties are common and can be persistent, impacting not only on school experience, academic achievement and later life choices, but also on many practical issues of daily living. Continue reading


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Why language skills must be a key feature of any Reception Baseline Assessment

By Diane King

The new Reception Baseline Assessment is essentially an accountability measure but, at NFER, we believe that it can also be a useful tool for teachers to identify children who may benefit from extra support.  In these early years, it is particularly important to ensure that children have good language skills so that they can access the curriculum and make good progress throughout the rest of their school years. Continue reading


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Validity and baseline assessment

By Marian Sainsbury, assessment expert, former Primary teacher, and NFER research associate

Much of the recent controversy about baseline assessment has centred on arguments about its validity. However, this term is widely used and abused with little attention to its real meaning – for example, the phrase ‘statistically invalid’ in a recent letter to the Guardian is literally meaningless. Continue reading


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Is baseline assessment really ‘invalid and harmful’?

By Marian Sainsbury, assessment expert, former Primary teacher, and NFER research associate

As the new baseline assessment policy develops, opinions are quickly polarising. The Department for Education (DfE) is introducing this assessment from September. Baseline assessment will take place in the first six weeks of children starting school and provides a score for measuring a pupil’s progress from the beginning to the end of primary school and beyond. Continue reading


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Schools’ capacity for change in interesting times

By Ben Durbin

May you live in interesting times. It’s not a pronouncement you make on your friends – reputedly of Chinese origin, it is generally used as a curse.  Schools have certainly been living through some interesting times of late, with reforms affecting what pupils are taught, how they’re assessed, the standards they’re expected to achieve, and the way in which schools are held to account.  The latest developments came last week with the launch of a new assessment without levels commission. Continue reading


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Baseline assessment – a matter of principle

By Marian Sainsbury, assessment expert, former Primary teacher, and NFER research associate

Baseline assessment, to be introduced nationally in 2015-16, gives a score for children’s abilities in their first six weeks of school, so that later progress can be measured. Since the DfE announcement earlier this month, there have been six accredited providers of reception baseline assessments, each offering a distinctive approach. This means that schools have a real choice about the kind of assessment they adopt and there has already been considerable discussion about what constitutes a ‘principled’ baseline assessment. Continue reading