The NFER blog

Evidence for excellence in education


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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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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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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