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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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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