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Publication Detail
Research into the 2019 Pilot of Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA)
  • Publication Type:
  • Authors:
    Roberts-Holmes G, Lee S-F, Sousa D, Jones E
  • publication date:
  • Commisioning body:
    National Education Union
This report details findings from a research study which explored the views of early years and primary teachers on the 2019 Reception Baseline Assessment pilot administered to children in their first six weeks of Reception class. Data were collected through an online survey of early years and primary teachers with 1285 respondents and in-depth interviews in six case study primary schools during September to November 2019. This research adds to existing literature on RBA (BERA 2018; Bradbury, 2019a) by exploring through in-depth case studies of Reception classrooms the consequences of the introduction of Reception Baseline Assessment. The research details the fine-grained impacts upon four year old children and their teachers and teaching assistants of this new standardised progress measure. The key findings are: In the survey only 3% of teachers felt that RBA had a positive impact on the Reception class ‘settling in’ period. Responses to our survey and interviews showed that teachers felt that children were aware that they were being tested and that some experienced a sense of failure. Teachers reported that RBA operates as a deficit measure of what some four year olds ‘don’t know and can’t do’, especially with regards to formal school-based early literacy and numeracy and that for some children this created anxiety and stress. RBA was considered developmentally inappropriate for some four-year olds during their first six weeks of settling into Reception class. Teachers reported that the RBA represented a level of unfairness towards some four year old children because it did not take into account a wide range of contextual variables, such as children’s date of birth, gender, family background, levels of confidence, whether or not they were EAL (the test is in English only), SEN and whether or not the children had attended a nursery. Only 20% of teachers believed that RBA provided an accurate picture of children’s current attainment and 84% of our survey respondents stated that RBA was an unreliable or inaccurate way to measure children’s progress over 7 years of primary school. 69% of survey respondents disagreed that ‘Reception Baseline Assessment has helped to develop positive relationships with the children in Reception’. In the case-study schools, teachers described their current routines for ‘settling in’ new pupils that developed positive relationships through observation, meaningful dialogue and activities and play. 85% of the schools surveyed reported that they have existing on-entry assessments and all six case-study schools had on-entry assessment in place. Teachers stated that these existing on-entry assessments system were carefully aligned with the holistic EYFS. In contrast the RBA and its short narrative assessments did not provide useful information. Teachers felt conflicted and anxious in attempting to meet the formal testing demands of the RBA and at the same time trying to settle and develop positive interactions and relationships with their new pupils. In the survey and in the case study interviews this repositioning of Reception teachers away from their caring pedagogic values of observing and listening to young children and towards a screen-based scripted standardised test, led to professional unease, frustration and stress. A minority of respondents thought that as a standardised test RBA, offered a measure of consistency across schools. Survey respondents with length of service under 3 years (13%) regarded the RBA more positively than respondents with 3-12 years (2%) and over 12 years (3%). RBA took teachers away from the classroom which disrupted their settling in routines and relationship-building with children. 83% of survey respondents stated that their workload had increased with RBA. 80% of teachers reported that RBA took 20 minutes or more per child to complete whilst 29% of respondents reported that the test took 30 minutes or more to complete. Some teachers used their PPA (planning, preparation and assessment) time to conduct the RBA test. Teachers reported staffing constraints and pressures in completing RBA. Some schools bought in supply teachers to cover lessons and to help them conduct RBA. Schools which could not afford to buy in additional support resorted to re-deploying staff from other year groups and support staff from additional needs pupils. Establishing consistent day-today classroom routines became difficult for Reception teachers who were out of class administering the RBA. This in turn had a negative impact on teaching assistants who were left to manage the class on their own.
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