Let’s give teachers the information they need to improve children’s academic outcomes

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Since the early 1990s CEM has offered a baseline assessment for primary schools.

We know it is vital that teachers have access to reliable information throughout reception, to help them make informed decisions so they can transform the academic outcomes of the children they teach. So we developed PIPS (Performance Indicators in Primary School) and later the BASE assessment for children in Reception.

We still believe that one of the most powerful ways to improve pupil outcomes is to give teachers robust, diagnostic, detailed information on individual pupil developmental levels in Reception.

This is why CEM will not be submitting a bid to deliver the new statutory reception baseline assessment.

What children know and can do

A high quality on-entry baseline assessment in Reception provides information on what children know and can do right from the start, which teachers might not get until much later by observation alone.

An assessment, like BASE, which is not onerous for the children and is easy for teachers to conduct complements teacher observations and allows them to gain some incredibly valuable insights into their children’s development.

What we know and can do

We know that a good start early on matters. Research published by CEM last year, The Long Term Impact of Effective Teaching, showed that children who do well in reception perform better all the way to GCSE.

The reason we exist as an organisation is that we firmly believe in giving teachers reliable information so that they can learn more about the children in their care, adapt their teaching accordingly, and give pupils the best possible chance to do well later.

We know that a good baseline assessment should:

  • Complement teacher assessment and observation
  • Provide information on what children know and can do that may not be picked up through observation alone
  • Help teachers identify areas for improvement and additional support

We do not believe that the government shares our vision for the assessment as the tender document states that the new baseline assessment ‘is not intended to provide on-going formative information for practitioners…it is not intended to provide detailed diagnostic information about pupils’ areas for development.’

Measuring progress

The tender document specifies that ‘The assessment will … provide the starting point for the progress measure that will be used for school accountability.’ We believe that progress is a good thing to measure. Children make more progress in the first year of school than at any other stage. It’s important to be able to record this progress.

And we agree that schools should be held accountable for providing a good education.

But assessment should tell you what your pupils know, understand and can do; it has to support teaching and learning and it should not be used solely to measure teacher or school performance for accountability.

As CEM Director, Professor Rob Coe explains: ‘Do we need to reform the accountability system? Yes, and radically. Does it make sense to wait seven years from the time children start school to make a punitive judgement about the school, based on the performance of whatever proportion of that small number of children are still at the same school? Not remotely.’

What next?

We will continue to offer our advice and expertise to those who develop the assessment for this policy. And we will continue to lobby for the insights it can provide to be shared with those who can make real difference.

In the meantime we will continue to offer our own baseline assessment to schools who value the incredibly valuable information it provides.

Read the research on the CEM Blog: Pupils taught well in Reception Class do better in their GCSEs

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