The Reception Baseline Assessment: A waste of time?


How much assessment is too much? And where should the boundary be drawn on how young children should start being assessed?

The Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA) was first announced in 2019 but was only put into practice in 2021 due to the COVID-19 disruption. The 20min long assessment is taken at any time within the first six weeks of the school year. It isn’t a test where a child passes or fails, but it’s a way to measure their language, communication, literacy, and maths skills right at the start of their journey through the school system.

The Department for Education (DfE) put this together to add a new way to judge a primary school’s impact on the development of individual students during their time there, by comparing the RBA results with their SATS outcomes. But how they will reliably do this is unclear, and the reality for teachers is that, to them, this is another extra thing they are being told to do without any tangible benefit to them or the child.


What is wrong with the RBA?

The campaign group More than a Score surveyed 448 reception teachers after helping their pupils complete the tests for the first time in 2021, and the results were unfavorable. 88% of the respondents labeled the assessments as a waste of teaching time, and 85% said it was not as useful as their own observations in the classroom.

The problems stem from the time it took the teachers to learn and implement the system, the time it took away from letting children settle into a new environment and establish a positive relationship with their teacher, and the lack of wisdom in testing four-year-olds, who teachers were saying were feeling anxious about the test even when the system was in the trial stage.

Overall, only 1% of teachers said that the RBA was a positive experience for the child.

The DfE insists that the pay-off for doing the tests at the start of a child’s education is that more substantial assessments at the end of Key Stage 1 will no be longer mandatory, which reduces the pressure on teachers in the long run.

However, at a time when more teachers than ever are contemplating quitting the profession, this is another example of those in power giving them more to do without it providing a real solution to any problem.


So what’s the solution?

Assessments, though necessary to track development, should be allowed to be a fun experience for a four-year-old. The Reception Baseline Assessment gives the government another way to judge schools but has a negative impact on both teachers and students, who don’t get to see any benefits from taking the time to do it.

A more effective way to assess students could be to have an app that allows teachers to create easy and engaging ways to test their students while lessons are going on, and get results in real-time to help determine which kids are getting the hang of what is being taught, and which ones aren’t.

This is just one of the benefits of the app that E-spaces has created. Assessment is important, but why does it always have to be so formal? Our solution makes testing children’s understanding a seamless and authentic process, as it is done on the go and in a relaxed environment, allowing more time for the teacher to help those that are falling behind.

Our BETA version will begin to be trialed in the next few weeks, and schools are signing up to help us through the testing process. If your school would like to join us on our mission to reduce the burden on teachers, fill out our contact us form to find out how.

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