Query over key stage 1 tests after Reception Baseline Assessment postponed

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Primary school leaders are hoping that the removal of key stage 1 statutory assessments could still happen within the planned timescales despite delays to the national roll-out of Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA).

The Department for Education (DfE) confirmed in June that the introduction of RBA, which had been scheduled for this September, is to be pushed back to 2021.

A statement said: “Due to the challenging circumstances faced by schools in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, statutory introduction of the RBA has been postponed to autumn 2021.”

Instead, schools are being given the option of signing up to a “RBA Early Adopter year”, which the DfE presents as a chance for schools “to familiarise themselves with assessment materials before the RBA becomes statutory”.

State schools with a Reception cohort who want to sign up for this have until July 24. Once signed up, schools will receive assessment materials before the October half-term. The DfE added: “Participation is optional, even after signing up. Data gathered from the Early Adopter year will not be used for the purpose of the progress measure.”

The RBA is an activity-based assessment of pupils’ “starting point” in language, communication, literacy, and mathematics. The assessment is delivered by teachers and lasts 20 minutes.

The aim is to use the results to create progress measures for primary schools spanning from Reception until the end of key stage 2. In pushing back roll-out, the DfE confirmed: “We will publish these measures for all-through primaries in the summer of 2028 for the first time. This will be when those pupils who entered Reception in autumn 2021 reach the end of key stage 2.”

Responding to the announcement, the National Association of Head Teachers has asked the government to consider how the removal of key stage 1 statutory assessments “could still happen to the planned timescales”.

General secretary Paul Whiteman, said: “We support the pragmatic decision by government to delay the statutory implementation of RBA by 12 months to September 2021. We welcome the much-needed clarity this provides for schools as they prepare for the autumn term.

“There is no certainty at the current time as to what will happen in the autumn term and there is the potential of further disruption to the 2020/21 academic year. Furthermore, we know that there will be plenty of recovery work to do and that most children will not have had the opportunity to take part in the usual transition activities prior to starting school. Schools will rightly need to be focusing on this vital work as they return in the new academic year.”

The plans for the national roll-out stipulate that the existing key stage 1 assessments – both national curriculum tests and teacher assessments – will become non-statutory once the RBA is “fully established”.

However, Mr Whiteman added: “This delay could mean that the removal of key stage 1 statutory assessments is also put back. We would urge government to consider how this could still happen to the planned timescales, reducing the amount of statutory tests and assessments which take place in the primary years overall.”

On the Early Adopter year, Mr Whiteman said that it was “entirely a choice for each school”. He added: “For those schools who do want to participate, pushing the assessment window into the second half of the autumn term will help them to do so and there is reassurance that, as with the pilot year, the data will not be used in any form of accountability.”

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