12th December 2023

English and maths tests for four-year-olds are inaccurate and unhelpful, say reception teachers and school leaders

  • Only 3% of reception teachers say maths and English test provides accurate information
  • 76% of Reception teachers say Baseline Assessment is unhelpful during settling-in period
  • Just 1% of heads and teachers say it is a good experience for children
  • Fewer than 2% believe it is important for parents and families

Formally testing 4- and 5-year-olds in English and maths when they start school is not a reliable measure, according to the overwhelming majority of reception teachers and primary school leaders.

The government claims data from Reception Baseline Assessment will be compared to year 6 SATs results to judge school performance but only 3% of reception teachers believe the test provides accurate information about a child’s abilities, according to a Teacher Tapp survey* conducted by campaign group More Than A Score. The formal test has been in place since 2021 and is designed to replace year 2 SATs as the starting point for a measure of academic progress.

Over three-quarters of reception teachers (76%) believe that the assessment is unhelpful during the vital settling-in period. All tests must be carried out before October half-term, a crucial period when most children are already adjusting to huge changes. The More Than A Score campaign has calculated that at least 60,000 school days have been lost to administering Reception Baseline Assessment since the start of term.

Many of the criticisms of the test prior to its introduction have been borne out by classroom experiences: only 1% of teachers and heads believe that the test is a good experience for children and only 6% say it is appropriate for children with SEND. Meanwhile, fewer than 2% said it was important for families and parents.

Two years on from its introduction, the government has not provided any information about how a 20 minute test taken by children at the age of four will be reliably analysed against the results of four days of tests taken by pupils at the age of 11.

Commenting on the results, Alison Ali of More Than A Score said, “Reception Baseline Assessment is just another pointless government test in primary schools. Parents, heads and teachers, all know how pivotal the settling-in period is for young children when they start school. This is when teachers rightly spend their time getting to know children and instilling a love of learning. To have that time disrupted with formal testing solely for the purpose of data collection is difficult to justify. We are two years on from the assessment being introduced and, as these results show, support from teachers and heads remains very low. We need to look at ways to inspire a love of learning from a young age, instead of wasting precious time on needless testing.”


*Teacher Tapp is a daily survey app that asks over 9,000 teachers questions each day and reweights the results to make them representative. This research surveyed primary EYFS/reception teachers, SLT and heads. The sample size was 1161.


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