Delivering a reception baseline assessment - why a standardised administration is fairer than an observational approach

Press Release

Thursday 19 October 2017

The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) has today published a new NFER Thinks paper in which it outlines the reasons for having a standardised or uniform approach to the administration and scoring of a school-entry or reception assessment to use as a baseline for measuring progress across the primary phase.

In September, the Government published its response to the Department for Education’s consultation on primary assessment in which it specified that a new reception baseline assessment (RBA) would be introduced to enable progress of a whole cohort to be measured across seven years of schooling. The response did not give much detail on the proposed assessment but clearly stated that it would be ‘teacher-mediated’ and that it would not be an observational assessment carried out over time.

In this latest paper in the NFER Thinks series, NFER outlines in more detail what will be required of the new RBA if it is to enable fair and consistent comparisons across schools in this new high-stakes accountability regime.

A standardised or uniform administration approach to the delivery of the RBA will be essential and would involve the teacher carrying out assessments on a one-to-one basis, using exactly the same instructions or ‘script’ for each child.

Among the characteristics and advantages of a standardised or uniform administration that NFER explains in the paper are included:

  • validity and reliability
  • mitigating the effects of external variables
  • objectivity and practicality
  • authenticity and familiarity
  • equality and fairness
  • sensitivity to the age group
  • avoidance of ‘localism’.

The author of the paper, Research Director Catherine Kirkup, says of proposals for the new RBA, “A standardised or uniform administration of the RBA should not in any way be taken to mean that the assessment must necessarily be automated or sterile. This underestimates the professionalism of assessment developers and the practitioners that will carry them out.

“In many cases young children will not even realise they are being assessed. Many will enjoy the opportunity to have their teacher’s undivided attention, if only for 20 or 30 minutes, and the experience may seem less strange than some other activities encountered for the first time in reception, such as lining up, assemblies or doing the register”.

Read the report Read the article