Local MP calls on government to abandon new school tests for 4-year olds

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14 May 2020
Wirral West MP Margaret Greenwood has written to Nick Gibb – the government’s Minister for School Standards – urging him to cancel plans to introduce a new test for 4-year olds called the Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA), which is due to be rolled out in the 2020 autumn term.

In her letter, Margaret Greenwood, who is Shadow Schools Minister, draws attention to widespread opposition to the RBA from the National Education Union (NEU), educationalists and campaign groups, while arguing that the focus must be on supporting the psychological and emotional wellbeing of pupils and helping young children settle in to school-based learning.

Margaret Greenwood points to research into the government's 2019 pilot of Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA) by University College London (UCL) Institute of Education which highlights serious issues relating to the RBA in terms of its negative impact on the wellbeing of children, increased teacher workload and the wider pressures that it created within schools.

According to the government, the new assessment, which schools will be required to carry out within the first 6 weeks, will enable it to show the progress that a particular year group of pupils make from reception until the end of Key Stage 2 (KS2). The government has said it will not be used to label or track individual pupils and that it is not intended to provide detailed diagnostic information about pupils’ areas for development.

The government has said of the RBA that ‘There is no pass mark or score and your child should not realise they’re doing an assessment.’ Despite this, the UCL research found that ‘teachers reported that RBA operates as a deficit measure of what some four year olds ‘don’t know and can’t do’…and that for some children this created anxiety and stress.’

A petition by campaign group More Than a Score opposing the introduction of the RBA has attracted more than 80,000 signatures.

Margaret Greenwood MP said:

“A child starting school is a big event in any family and parents need to have confidence that their children will be happy in their class.

“It is a matter of real concern that teachers who took part in the Institute of Education research reported that some children found the Reception Based Assessment stressful and that it had detrimental effects upon their wellbeing.

“Only 3% of teachers felt that Reception Baseline Assessment had a positive impact on the Reception class ‘settling in’ period.

“Settling children into school during their first few weeks is immensely important – it makes no sense to disrupt that with the Reception Baseline Assessment.

“This year it will be especially important for teachers to create the positive and supportive environment that pupils will need to be able to settle in to school and enjoy learning in the school environment.

“The government must support the psychological and emotional wellbeing of pupils as a priority.

"I have written to the minister urging him to cancel the introduction of the RBA as a matter of urgency."