North West London

PRIMARY EDUCATION

The education secretary’s promises to cut workload and to take away some of the fear factor from how schools are held to account have been direct responses to this.

The latest workforce figures do not show any particular increase in teachers quitting the classroom in recent years, but any improvement in retention would help the overall pressure on staffing.

Baseline testing back on primary timetable

unions. There have been arguments that it is wrong in principle to test such young children, adding unnecessary stress. Opponents say that it is unreliable and unnecessary to carry out a formal assessment on children who have only just stepped into school and that it adds more tasks for teachers. Critics of baseline testing have warned of a wider culture of over-testing and over-reliance on data and targets. The advocates of baseline testing have said that if there are going to be Key Stage 2 SATs tests at the end of primary school, there needs to be a consistent and credible test at the beginning against which to compare the results. Otherwise, they would argue, it is like trying to measure the time for an athlete to reach the finish line without an accurate measure for when they started. This argument has gone back and forth, and plans to implement baseline testing have previously been announced and then delayed. The testing should already be in place in schools but was stopped by problems with the use of three different types of tests, which were found not to be directly comparable. This threatened to introduce inconsistencies in results, which would have undermined the whole point of a reliable benchmark. That meant the government had to abandon its original baseline testing plans two years ago, amid accusations from head teachers that primary school assessment was descending into “chaos”.

Baseline testing in primary schools had previously been supported by the Labour Party but they are opposed to the idea

The proposals for baseline tests for children starting primary school have taken a step closer to being implemented, with the Department for Education setting out a timetable that will see the assessments introduced to reception classes from autumn 2020. It is been a complicated path for what has been a controversial idea. The idea of baseline testing is to draw a clear starting point at the beginning of school, against which pupils’ future progress can be measured. So pupils will be tested in reception class, and that will become a marker against which subsequent achievement is measured. When they get to the end of primary school, it will be possible to show the overall progress of a year group and to see how well they have performed individually and collectively. But this has always drawn criticism, particularly from some of the teachers’

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