New Reception baseline assessment to be introduced


The government has today announced that it will introduce a new Reception baseline assessment (RBA) for children entering Reception year in state schools in England, which forms part of their overall aims to change the way in which a child’s progress through school is measured. It will be introduced in all state-funded schools in 2020, but trialled in selected schools from September this year.

What is the RBA for?

It will be used as a baseline for measuring the progress that primary schools make. In other words, it is intended as a measure of school performance rather than pupil academic ability. It builds on other changes that the government introduced, such as using Attainment 8 and Progress 8 as measures of school performance from 2016, which measure a child’s progress through secondary school compared to their academically-similar peers, as well as the school’s overall performance in comparison to other schools.

The new assessment will allow the government to measure a school’s progress by its pupils’ performance from the start of school to the end of primary school in KS2. As a result, once the RBA has been established, KS1 tests will become non-mandatory (from the 2022/23 academic year at the earliest), but KS2 tests will remain in place for Year 6 pupils.

What will the assessment be like?

The RBA will cover communication, language and literacy, early mathematics skills and possibly self-regulation. It will take twenty minutes to complete and teachers record the results. They will not be used to label or track individual pupils.

Why has this announcement been made?

It comes in response to last year’s consultation on Primary assessment in England. Measuring success in primary schools is an update from government, but further details will be revealed as the measure progresses. 

The first full measures of a school’s progress throughout the primary school life of a child will be published in 2027. This will be when children who entered Reception in 2020 (when the new baseline assessment is introduced) will be leaving primary school having completed KS2.

Arguments for and against

Some education professionals have reservations about introducing an RBA. There is concern over the potential for stress that younger children may be placed under. Others point to a lack of accuracy of any baseline measurement owing to variable conditions, since the child will be relatively new to school and to their teacher. Others have welcomed the move, saying that the system should better reflect the progress a child makes throughout the entirety of their schooling (rather than from the end of KS1 as at present).

Summary of what we know so far

  • The assessment will be introduced for children starting Reception in autumn 2020
  • It will be mandatory – all state-funded schools in England will run the RBA
  • It will be taken soon after children start school in Reception
  • It is intended to measure the progress primary schools make
  • It will assess pupils’ skills in communication, language and literacy, early mathematics and possibly self-regulation
  • Trials begin in selected schools in September 2018
  • Voluntary pilot starts in 2019
  • National roll out in 2020
  • KS1 non-mandatory from 2023
  • New measures will be published in 2027 for the first time
  • The RBA will be designed by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER).

We will update our Understanding Education section with information about the new reception baseline assessments and any changes to KS1 and KS2 testing once details emerge.

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