16th April 2020

Calling for the immediate cancellation of plans to introduce Reception Baseline Assessment

Dear Mr Gibb

We are writing to call for the immediate cancellation of plans for the introduction of Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA) in the Autumn term. This will reassure the hundreds of thousands of parents of four-year-olds who will be starting school in the coming year that their children’s welfare is being prioritised, and will show that government understands that young children cannot begin to learn until they feel safe, secure and settled.

There are pressing reasons for cancellation.

  • After a period of unprecedented disruption from COVID-19, the priority must be to give these small children a sound start at school. They will have missed a great deal of the necessary practical and emotional preparation including transition visits and, potentially, a whole term or more in nursery.
  • The government’s baseline assessment process will be a huge distraction, especially in terms of the extra workload for teachers at a time when their main focus should be building relationships and giving children the opportunity to catch up on the many learning opportunities they will have missed. According to recent research from the National Education Union1, 83% of teachers said carrying out RBA increased their workload.
  • The government should trust early years teachers to carry out their own formative baselines when children start school – as they always have done. Teachers can then plan their teaching based on detailed and useful information from each child, including information from parents and nurseries, rather than on a limited, standardised set of data which, as the government’s own report states, is not designed to be used for diagnostic purposes2 and therefore provides no meaningful information for teachers.

Over a half of all primary schools did not complete the Baseline pilot3. They will have had no experience of administering the tests; this will be an additional and needless burden in the new school year.

Children deserve the best possible start to school. We hope, in these unprecedented times, that you urgently reconsider your plans.


Nancy Stewart on behalf of More Than A Score, Professor Dominic Wyse President BERA, Rebecca Long-Bailey MP, Tulip Saddiq MP, Layla Moran MP, Caroline Lucas MP, Elaine Bennett Keeping Early Years Unique, Beatrice Merrick Chief Executive Early Education, Kevin Courtney & Mary Bousted Joint General Secretaries NEU, Guy Robert-Holmes & Alice Bradbury Institute of Education UCL, plus more than 2,500 additional signatures, including 100s of headteachers and teachers, academics from 30 universities, as well as early years practitioners, parents, child psychologists and psychotherapists.

1. https://www.tes.com/news/pupils-scared-baseline-tests-say-teachers
2. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/reception-baseline-assessment-validity-report
3. https://www.tes.com/news/quarter-baseline-pilot-schools-had-incomplete-tests


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