Last reviewed 22 April 2021

The Government has confirmed that the Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA) is to become statutory in England from September 2021, but campaigners are urging for this decision to be reversed.

The assessments of four-year-olds starting Reception were due to be introduced in September 2020 but have been delayed by a year due to the pandemic. The results will be used to measure the progress of children from when they first start school until they leave in Year 6.

In a new survey by campaign group More than A Score just 8% of parents strongly supported the introduction of the assessments, with the majority highlighting settling into school and making friends as key for children starting school. Of the primary school leaders surveyed, almost two-thirds (64%) believe the test should not be going ahead this year, with only 16% agreeing that it will be a good use of teaching time.

A major concern for just under two-thirds (63%) of primary school heads surveyed is that the effect of the pandemic on pre-school experiences will render any data produced from the tests useless as a baseline measure. Although nurseries remained open during lockdown, attendance was low at under 50% in January, February and March. After so much disruption, just 8% of school leaders surveyed believe that the RBA will produce more accurate information than observational assessment by teachers.

The campaign is calling for early years specialists, Heads, teachers and academics to sign an open letter to Gavin Williamson MP, the education secretary, asking for the cancellation of the RBA to be included in the recovery plan for schools.

Nancy Stewart from More Than A Score said:

“The coming school year is not the time to subject any primary school children to formal government tests. The focus must be on pupils’ emotional wellbeing and mental health and that starts with the very youngest children.”

However, the Department for Education (DfE) has said the assessments would take into account any impact of the pandemic on children’s educational experience up to this point and would be administered without putting any pressure on pupils.

More information on the campaign can be found here.