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Reception baseline assessment (RBA)

Do you have a child starting reception class from this academic year? If so, your child will be participating in the reception baseline assessment (RBA) within the first six weeks of starting reception.

The RBA will be statutory in all maintained primary, infant and first schools in England from September 2021. It is a short, activity-based assessment of pupils’ early mathematics, literacy, communication and language skills. The RBA is not about judging or labelling your child or putting them under any pressure. Your child cannot ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ the assessment. The purpose of the assessment is to provide the starting point for a new measure that will help parents understand how well schools support their pupils to progress between reception and Year 6 / the end of Key Stage 2.

The result of each child's RBA is later used in conjunction with the year group's Key Stage 2 SATs results for the government to measure the overall progress primary schools make with their pupils. This will ensure primary schools are held to account and succeed in providing a good education for their pupils.

You can find more information about the RBA here, and we've summarised the key points below.

Where will the RBA apply?

The RBA will be introduced to all state-funded schools, but for the moment at least, this only applies to schools in England. However, changes to the curriculum in Wales may mean that something similar to the RBA is introduced there in the near future. See Education is changing for more details on the overhaul of Welsh education.

What does the RBA check for?

The RBA looks at the stage of a child's early learning in:

  • Language
  • Communication
  • Literacy
  • Mathematics

The RBA will be a short task-based assessment. Pupils will use practical resources to complete these tasks and teachers will record the results on a laptop, computer or tablet. It will not be used to label or track individual pupils.

How long does the assessment take?

Pilot analysis showed that children took an average of just over 14 minutes to complete the RBA activities. The assessment’s two components, Mathematics and LCL (Literacy, Communication and Language), are intended to be undertaken separately to reduce any burden on the child.

What happens during the assessment?

Within the first six weeks of a child starting school, their teacher (or another qualified member of staff the child knows) will oversee the RBA, which is an activity-based assessment. Children will be familiar with the environment in which they take the assessment as well as with the staff member, to make sure they are at ease. It is hoped that most children will not be aware that they are being assessed. Children won't use a digital platform, but instead will provide answers to the teacher during the course of short, practical tasks in the following ways:

  • Oral response (speaking) 30–40%
  • Pointing 25–35%
  • Ordering or moving objects 25–35%

At the same time, the teacher will record ‘yes’/’no’ results on a laptop, tablet or similar device. They influence the pace of the assessment, using pauses if they detect that the child has lost concentration. The assessment is interactive, so the line of questions can adapt to ensure that children are not repeatedly asked to do tasks they are unable to successfully complete on their own. The assessment can be stopped at any time, and if cut short, the score will be based on a partial assessment.

Your child will answer questions verbally or by pointing at or moving objects. The assessment has been designed to ensure that it is inclusive and accessible to as many children as possible, including those with special educational needs or disability (SEND) or English as an additional language (EAL). The teacher can pause the assessment at any time if your child needs a break. There are also modifed materials available for children with visual and hearing impairments.

How is the RBA scored?

The maximum number of marks available is 39. However, the assessment adapts to suit the ability of the pupil, the total marks available for each child to achieve is variable. The smallest total number of marks available for a child to be assessed against is 22.

Can parents help children to prepare for the RBA?

There is no need to help your child to prepare for the assessment. Your child should not even be aware that they are being assessed. Continue to support your child's learning at home in the usual way. We have many resources on the website to help with supporting learning at home.

How will the results be used?

1. Schools

Teachers receive summary statements of how each child has performed in the assessment that may be useful to them in understanding each child's learning needs during their early education.

2. The Department for Education

The data from the assessment will only be used by the Department for Education when your child has reached the end of year 6, to provide the baseline to measure the progress of your child’s year group from reception to year 6. The data from the assessment, including numerical scores, is not shared with you, pupils, teachers, or external bodies, including schools, and there will be no published scores at pupil, school or national level. As it is not an assessment of individual pupils, children will not be labelled or disadvantaged, whatever their developmental level at the start of their schooling.

Can parents see the results?

Your child’s teacher will receive a set of statements which provide a narrative description of how your child performed in the assessment. Schools can choose whether to send these to you directly, but they must provide them to you on your request.

Why is the RBA being introduced?

The government wants to measure children's progress throughout the whole course of their primary school education. Before the introduction of the RBA, children's attainment was measured for the first time through taking SATs at the end of KS1, which ignores the efforts of teaching staff in the academic progress a child makes in the three academic years between Reception and Year Two.

Where does this leave SATs?

The existing statutory end of Key Stage 1 (KS1) assessments - both national curriculum tests and teacher assessments - will become optional (that is, non-statutory) once the reception baseline is fully established.

DfE introductory video

See here for a short introductory video from the Department for Education.


Reviewed: August 2021

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