15th October 2021

Not helpful, stressful and a waste of time: teachers and heads condemn new English and Maths test for four-year-olds

  • Only 1% of teachers and school leaders believe the new tests have been a positive experience for pupils
  • Only 6% believe they did not disrupt teaching time during the settling-in period
  • 88% of reception teachers agree they are a waste of teaching time
  • 85% agree they are not as useful as their own observations of children

The government’s controversial new English and maths test for four-year-olds has been condemned by primary teachers and heads.

Only 1% of teachers and school leaders agree that administering the new Reception Baseline Assessment was a positive experience for pupils according to a survey from campaign group More Than A Score, carried out on TeacherTapp.*

The new assessment must be carried out in all reception classes before the October half-term.

It has been widely criticised by educators, experts and parents with a key concern being the amount of time required (30 minutes per child) to carry it out. This has been borne out by the survey results: only 6% of respondents believe that the test did not disrupt classroom teaching time.

Reception teachers who have had to assess up to 30 children per class feel the most strongly about the new assessments. 88% of those surveyed agree that it is a waste of their time and only 2% believe carrying out the test has been a positive experience for teachers. 85% of reception teachers believe that the tests are not as useful as their own classroom-based observations.

In many schools, classroom rotas have been changed, or extra support drafted in to cover teachers administering the tests. As they must be completed by half-term, the time spent has inevitably affected the critical settling-in period for reception children. Almost half of reception teachers surveyed (43%) believe the process has been stressful for teachers. Perhaps more worryingly, almost one in 10 of all respondents (8%) believe it has also been stressful for children.

The survey results also disprove one of the DfE’s justifications for the test. Only 14% of survey respondents believe the tests were helpful for getting to know children contradicting a leaflet for parents describing the RBA as “an opportunity for your child to have valuable one-to-one time with their teacher”.*

The More Than A Score campaign has calculated that at least 60,000 school days have been lost to RBA at a time when settling in to school has never been more important. Nancy Stewart, spokesperson for the campaign, says, “The first few weeks of school are absolutely critical. This is when teachers rightly spend their time getting to know children and instilling a love of learning. It’s simply wrong to disrupt that time with a test whose sole purpose is data collection.”

Dr Victoria Carr, headteacher of Woodlands Primary in Cheshire has first-hand experience of administering the new test. She says, “These tests add no value to a child’s school experience. Our own observation-based assessments tell us all we need to know about each individual pupil. We’re doing our very best to minimise disruption but it’s been the last thing teachers and children have needed.”

Meanwhile, parents are also speaking out against the new tests. Justine Stephens in Brighton is mother to 5-year-old Rowen. She comments, “Rowen has been so excited about starting school and I’ve put my trust in her teacher to spend lots of time getting to know her, settling her in and assessing all that she can do. That should be the priority in the first few weeks of school, not a pointless collection of data.”

The government claims that the data collected by the RBA will be compared with the results of year 6 SATs in seven years’ time to measure a school’s overall progress. However, it has not provided any information about how a 20 minute test taken at the age of four will be reliably analysed against the results of four days of tests taken at the age of 11.

The new Baseline test is one of three new primary assessments in the 2021/22 school year. Along with an Autumn Phonics Check for year 2 pupils and a year 4 Times Tables Check, the number of government tests has now doubled to six, compared to before the pandemic. There are now statutory assessments in five out of seven primary school years.

* The research was carried out by Teacher Tapp a daily survey app that asks over 7,000 teachers questions each day and reweights the results to make them representative. This research surveyed primary EYFS/KS1 teachers, SLT and heads. The sample size was 448.

** https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1004560/2021_Information_for_parents_reception_baseline_assessment.pdf



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