Information about the 2019/20 reception baseline assessment pilot

 Staff data privacy notice

Pupil data privacy notice

What is the reception baseline assessment?
The reception baseline assessment is a new national assessment that will be administered in reception classes in all primary, infant and first schools in England. This will form the baseline for primary progress measures, allowing schools to receive credit for the progress their pupils make throughout their time in primary school. It is intended that this will be introduced in autumn 2020.

Why is it being introduced?
Currently, a key measure of how well a primary school is serving its pupils is the progress that they make between the end of key stage 1 (year 2) and the end of key stage 2 (year 6). This allows the government to take account of the fact that schools face different challenges given their pupils’ starting points. However, under the current arrangements, we are not able to give full credit for the important work that schools do between reception and year 2. The new reception baseline assessment will provide a snapshot of where pupils are when they arrive at school, enabling a new starting point to measure the progress that they make by the end of year 6. It will also enable the Department for Education (DfE) to remove statutory end of key stage 1 assessments, as they will no longer be the starting point for progress measures. This will reduce the overall burden of the statutory assessment system.

What is the national pilot of the reception baseline assessment?
The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) are contracted by DfE to develop, trial and pilot the new reception baseline assessment from May 2018, and deliver it from September 2020. This is phased as follows:

Timing Key Activities
September - October 2018 Trial with September 2018 intake
September 2019 – July 2020 Pilot in schools for all 3 main intake periods
From September 2020 Intended statutory roll-out of the reception baseline assessment across all schools in England


This pilot 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 to pilot the assessment in schools to enable us to evaluate the effectiveness of individual questions, as well as the assessment as a whole.

The assessment is very similar to the on-entry checks that many schools already carry out with their reception pupils. It is not a formal test and children will not need to prepare for it in any way. The assessment is an age-appropriate, activity-based assessment of a pupil’s attainment in early literacy, communication and language and early mathematics skills.

Who can take part in the pilot?
All maintained infant, first and primary schools across England, including special schools, service children’s education schools and hospital schools, are invited to participate in the pilot phase of the reception baseline assessment. Independent schools and pupil referral units are excluded.
Participation in the pilot is voluntary. However, by taking part, teachers and pupils will make an important contribution to the finalisation of the materials in terms of their suitability, accessibility and reliability.

What IT equipment is required?
To take part in the pilot, 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
  • tablets, PCs or laptops – mobile telephones are not supported

What does the assessment look like?
The reception baseline is a task-based assessment, delivered in English, using physical materials that children can easily handle such as plastic shapes and picture sequencing cards. The wording of each task has been carefully designed to maximise accessibility and to be child-friendly. Practitioners will use an online scoring system to record the pupils’ responses; the child will not interact with the digital system. The assessment includes routing, which helps to prevent pupils from being presented with too many activities in which they are unlikely to be successful. It also helps to reduce the time required for the assessment and the possible discomfort that pupils may feel if they are unable to complete an activity. Routing rules are automatically applied by the online recording system.

As part of the development, the assessment has been subject to a large-scale trial involving more than 300 schools and 3,000 pupils. In addition to analysis of the trialling data and practitioner feedback, we have also consulted with early years practitioners, via a teacher panel and informal trialling, to ensure that the resources and task activities are 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 practitioner feedback respectively.

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

What resources will be required?
The assessment is supplied in a resource box that provides all the materials required (for example, number cards and stimulus images), together with guidance documents to support the administration of the assessment. An administration guide is provided to all users in hard copy. An online guide containing all the information required for uploading pupil data and recording the assessments will be made available.

What does the pilot involve?
Schools will carry out the assessment with all children from their 2019/20 reception cohort in the first 6 weeks of the pupils starting school. It should take approximately 20 minutes to complete and breaks can be taken if needed. The assessment should be carried out in a familiar setting, by a practitioner known to the child, so that the child feels comfortable. Staff completing the assessment will need access to an online system (via a tablet, laptop or PC), which has minimum technical requirements as described above.

We will provide the guidance and materials needed to participate in the pilot and offer support by telephone or email throughout.

During the pilot, we will ask school staff to complete a questionnaire to gather their views on the pilot materials and the operational aspects of the assessment. This feedback will be used to make any improvements before the live phase.

What access arrangements are available?
We have worked with specialists in the design and production of materials for children with visual and hearing impairments. Modified guidance and resources for these pupils are available, subject to appropriate accessibility requirements.

The administration guide also gives advice for assessing children with special educational needs. This makes clear which changes from the standard administration are, or are not, permissible. For example, practitioners can make adaptations, such as copying resources onto particular colour backgrounds and enlarging or reducing some resources to a size appropriate for specific children.

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 most cases, at least part of the assessment will be accessible.

Who oversees the reception baseline assessment?
Completion of the pilot will be the headteacher’s responsibility. However, it is recommended that there should be a reception baseline lead in each school with day-to-day responsibility for the overall conduct of the assessment. This may not necessarily be the headteacher and could be, for example, the reception class teacher, early years or assessment coordinator.

What training will I receive?
Administration of the assessment will be nationally standardised, therefore assessment guidance will be made available to schools in advance of the assessment windows. Online training support will also be available to ensure consistency. Familarisation with the training materials should take around an hour.

A resource box will be sent to schools, which will allow practitioners to quickly access and understand the assessment requirements, supported by a comprehensive administration guide. In addition, online training materials will also be provided. The training materials consist of practice assessments and short videos demonstrating some of the tasks being carried out.

The training materials will introduce practitioners to the resources and requirements of the assessment, as well as demonstrating the practical aspects and how to use the online scoring system. Video tutorials will also be available.

It is important that all practitioners are fully familiar with the assessment requirements before carrying out the assessment, and they will be required to complete the training.

When completing the Headteacher declaration form, headteachers will be required to confirm that the training has been completed by all practitioners responsible for administering the assessment and that the assessments have been administered in line with the guidance. During the pilot, practitioners will be given the opportunity to give feedback on the training materials.

The online training will give more flexibility to schools and practitioners as to when they choose to do it. Practitioners may wish to do the training individually or schools may choose to do a whole-group training session (for example, if they are a multi-form entry or wish to do cluster training). There will be a helpdesk available 0330 088 4171 (08:00 to 18:00 Monday to Friday), and practitioners will be able to access the online materials using the on-demand service, in line with system availability.

Who will schools be able to discuss or share the assessment with?
School staff, including teachers or teaching assistants administering the RBA, must not discuss the content of the assessment with anyone, except during internal assessment training or familiarisation. Content that could compromise the assessment must not be discussed on social media, published online or shared outside of the school. The current arrangements for key stage 1 and 2 assessments, where materials can be shared after the administration window closes, does not apply in this instance. For the RBA, it is not acceptable to share assessment materials at any time. Any school behaviour that leads to assessment materials being shared may lead to an investigation of maladministration. However, it is acceptable for practitioners to incorporate the individual narrative statements produced by the assessment into a broader discussion about teaching and learning within the first term, with parents and/or guardians. Should this take place, the discussion must not include any information about assessment content.

Will schools receive feedback on the results of the pilot?
As part of the pilot, we will be trialling the provision of pupil reports. Schools will be provided with a series of narrative statements to describe how each pupil performed on the assessment. There will be no numerical information provided.

How will NFER use and protect the data collected?
All information relating to the pilot will be kept confidential by NFER and the Standards and Testing Agency (STA). We will treat any information collected from the pilot in confidence. Schools and pupils will be identified in reports shared with STA, including pupil data, which we will submit to STA.

You can read our full privacy notice for more information.

Who can I contact for more information?
Reception baseline helpline: 0330 088 4171