Information About the 2018 Reception Baseline Assessment Trial

This Reception Baseline Trial has now closed.
For more information on the Reception Baseline please go to

 Privacy notice

What is the trial of the reception baseline assessment?

The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) is the preferred supplier working to the Department for Education and Standards and Testing Agency (STA) to develop the new reception baseline assessment. This includes trial and pilot phases and the first 2 years of statutory delivery, as follows:

Timing  Key Activities 
September 2018:
10 September to 19 October - CLOSED
Trial with September 2018 intake children - CLOSED
September 2019 – July 2020 Pilot in schools for all 3 main intake periods
From September 2020 (for 2 years) New reception baseline assessment rolled out to all schools in England

This trial is a key part of the development process, which will be used to ensure that:

  • the assessment approach, systems and guidance are fit for purpose
  • the outcomes of the assessment meet all key requirements.

It is important we trial the assessment in schools to enable us to evaluate the effectiveness of individual items, as well as the assessment as a whole. We will use the results from the September 2018 trial to shape all aspects of the assessment and systems.

The assessment we are developing will be similar to the on-entry checks that many schools already administer to their reception pupils. It is not a formal test and children will not have to prepare for it in advance, either at home or at schools and nurseries. The assessment will be an age-appropriate, activity-based assessment of a pupil’s ability in communication, language and literacy, early mathematics skills and self-regulation.

How have schools been selected to take part?

For the September 2018 trial, STA has selected a nationally representative sample of local authority maintained schools and academies (including free schools) with age-appropriate pupils from across England.

Participation is voluntary for all selected schools. By taking part, the teacher and the class will be making an important contribution to the development of the materials in terms of their suitability, accessibility and reliability.

For the pilot year, all schools will have the opportunity to participate. Further information will be provided to all schools nearer the time.

What does the assessment look like?

It’s a task-based assessment, delivered in English, using physical resources such as counting teddy bears, plastic shapes and picture sequencing cards. The wording of each task has been carefully designed to maximise accessibility and to be child-friendly. Each assessment task also has natural discontinuation points so that children are not presented with demands they find too daunting. The electronic scoring system allows automatic routing to ensure that practitioners continue the assessment at the next appropriate task.

As part of our development, we consulted with early years practitioners, via a teacher panel and informal trialling, to ensure that the resources and task activities were engaging, accessible and age-appropriate. Evidence of the suitability of our assessment for the age group has been demonstrated both statistically and qualitatively through pupil data and teacher feedback respectively.

The language used to deliver the assessment tasks, which are scripted, is child-friendly and accessible. The resources can be manipulated by the child, reflecting familiar classroom practice. The one-to-one administration enables the practitioner to respond to the particular needs of the child.

What does taking part in the trial involve?

We will ask schools to select 10 children from their September 2018 reception cohort to carry out the trial.

The activities will be administered on a one-to-one basis by school staff. Each child will complete one session lasting approximately 25 minutes. The trial will last 5 minutes longer than the final version of the assessment that will be used in the pilot and in statutory delivery.  

We will ask schools to ensure that the assessment is administered by a practitioner who is familiar with each child, and within a familiar setting, so that children feel comfortable.

Breaks can be taken during the assessment, at the practitioner’s discretion.

The outcomes of the assessment will be scored by the practitioner using an online recording system on a tablet, laptop or computer.

We will provide guidance, materials and offer support by telephone or email throughout the trial.

We will provide a teacher guide which will give advice for assessing children with special educational needs or children who have English as an additional language. This makes clear which departures from the standard administration are, or are not, permissible.

After the trial, we will ask school staff to complete a questionnaire to capture their views on the trial materials and the operational aspects of the assessment. This feedback will be used to inform improvements before the pilot phase.

Special access arrangements

In developing the RBA, we are working with specialists in the design and production of materials for children and adults with a significant visual impairment. For the pilot and national rollout a set of modified large print resources will be available, on request from NFER, for children with a visual impairment. However, as these are in development, these will not be available for the trial.

Practitioners can make adaptations, such as copying resources on to particular colour backgrounds and enlarging or reducing some resources to a size appropriate for specific children. Advice on this will be included in the teacher guide.

Guidance will also be provided for assessing children with a hearing impairment. The assessment can be conducted in British Sign Language and sign-supported English.

For children who use communication tools such as the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) or Makaton, the specialist teacher associated with that child should determine which aspects of the assessment should be undertaken. We expect that, in almost all cases, at least part of the assessment will be accessible.

What specification for IT equipment and access do you need?

To take part in the trial, schools must have the following IT equipment and access:

  • Operating systems: Windows 8.1 or above, iOS11 or above;
  • Browsers: Internet Explorer 11, Microsoft Edge, or the latest versions of Google Chrome, Safari, or Firefox.

Will schools receive individual feedback on the results of the trial?

The assessment materials that we will trial in September 2018 will be in development and it may not be possible to provide feedback for the pupils involved in the trial. However, we hope that the experience provides useful insights into pupils’ reactions for the practitioner to use as part of their ongoing work with those pupils.

How will NFER use and protect the data collected?

All information relating to the trial will be kept confidential by NFER and STA and no individual or school will be identified in any report. NFER and STA will not disclose names of individuals or schools involved in the trial, either in any reports arising from the use of this data or in any other way.

You can read our full privacy notice for more information.