Press release

Best starting point for measuring pupil progress is an age-appropriate, standardised baseline assessment in reception year

21 June 2017

The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) has today published its submission(1) to the Government’s consultation on primary assessment which closes this Thursday 22 June.

The Foundation has over 70 years’ experience of developing both statutory and non-statutory assessments. Its submission gives supporting evidence for a number of recommendations and includes the views of a representative sample of over 650 primary senior leaders and classroom teachers recently surveyed by the Foundation(2).

The Foundation supports measuring children’s progress throughout the primary phase as a better way to assess the contribution schools make, rather than relying on absolute measures of attainment. Almost 90 per cent of respondents to the Foundation’s recent survey agreed.

NFER recommends that the best starting point for measuring progress is a baseline assessment in reception year, acknowledging the valuable contribution made by schools in the first three years. To be reliable, accurate and manageable, the baseline should be a standardised assessment of what children know and can do at the start of reception, as well as having a number of other important measurement properties that NFER outlines in its evidence. To be administered fairly and consistently by teachers and practitioners within and between schools, all children should be assessed against the same tasks in the same way.

If a baseline for measuring progress is introduced into reception, then NFER recommends that teacher assessment judgements and national curriculum tests at the end of Key Stage 1 should be made non-statutory to help reduce teacher workload. Over 90 per cent of teachers surveyed indicated that this would result in ‘some reduction’ or a ‘significant reduction’ in their workload.

However, a majority of teachers also suggested that they would still carry out optional testing at the end of Key Stage 1 in order to benchmark their performance against the national picture. Since government, parents and other stakeholders would also want to know that standards of attainment in English and mathematics were being maintained, NFER recommends that a sample of schools should be assessed each year to monitor national standards. Implications for teaching and learning could be extracted from an analysis of the data and fed back to schools.

In addition to the key recommendations outlined above, NFER makes a number of other recommendations in its submission, which include:


  1. NFER’s submission to the Government’s Primary assessment in England consultation can be found here. Further information about NFER’s assessment work can be found here.
  2. Teacher Voice Omnibus survey. The survey sample was representative, in terms of our deprivation indicator (FSM), of all schools with a Key Stage 1 or Key Stage 2 cohort (excluding special schools, independent schools and alternative provision schools). Of the 653 respondents, approximately one third were senior leaders and two thirds were classroom teachers. Respondents were presented with questions relevant to their school, i.e., they only saw questions relating to Key Stage 1 if their school includes Key Stage 1 pupils. The number of respondents with pupils in Key Stage 1 was 556 and the number of respondents with pupils in KS2 was 590. More information about NFER’s regular Teacher Voice omnibus surveys can be found here.
  3. The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) is a leading independent provider of rigorous research and insights in education, working to create an excellent education for all children and young people. We are a charity and our robust and innovative research, assessments and other services are widely known and used by key decision-makers. Any surplus generated is reinvested in projects to support our charitable purpose.; @TheNFER