Assessment briefing: The Reception baseline test

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By Ann O'Hara

Author of Leadership & Assessment Pathways



Do I need to meet the 30th April deadline?

Not necessarily…there is some flexibility. Two facts to note, from GOV.UK:

  1. Sign up by the end of April 2015 to start using the Reception baseline from 1st September 2015. You can sign up after this, but your preferred provider might not available.
  2. You should choose the Reception baseline that best fits your school’s needs and approach to assessment.

So, if you have not yet made your decision, because you have been waiting for further information, there is time beyond 30th April. However, if you do decide that your school will use one of the new Reception baselines, you would be wise to register your chosen provider by the end of June.

Why by the end of June? Each current approved provider is required to recruit sufficient users to become operational. GOV.UK tells us that :

  • If a provider doesn’t recruit a sufficient number of schools, they won’t be able to offer the Reception baseline.
  • Schools will be contacted by 3 June 2015 if they have chosen a provider that has been suspended – these schools will be invited to choose an alternative approved provider.

So, if you have not yet chosen a provider, you will be able to choose from those remaining in use. Additionally, if you choose to use an approved Reception baseline from September 2015, you have time to evaluate if this provider does meet your needs. You can select a different provider for 2016 onwards.

Why is the test being introduced?

The stated purpose, as presented on GOV.UK, has evolved over the spring terms. A collation of what we have been told is that:

We are introducing a baseline assessment in Reception year, the Reception baseline, to improve how we measure primary schools’ progress and to improve the way primary schools are held to account. We want to improve the way we measure progress at primary school to ensure we take account of:

  • schools with challenging intakes
  • the important work in Reception and Key Stage 1.

A progress measure is important to celebrate the work done by schools with more challenging intakes and recognises the vital work on narrowing the gap that takes place in Reception and Key Stage 1. Information on GOV.UK is being updated to reflect this.

  • We will collect a score for each child following the assessment, but we will not use it to track individual pupil progress. The Department for Education (DfE) will only use the outcomes from the Reception baseline to develop a cohort measure of progress.
  • The purpose of the Reception baseline is to provide a score for each pupil at the start of Reception. When pupils reach the end of Key Stage 2, we will use the Reception baseline score to calculate how much progress they have made compared to others with the same starting point. A school’s measure of progress will be the average progress made by its pupils.

Is it statutory from September 2015?

The EYFS profile will remain statutory in 2015/16. It will become non-statutory from September 2016 onwards.

So if you choose to use one of the new Reception baselines from September 2015, you should also continue with your EYFS profile. Not only is the EYFS profile still statutory, but:

  • no single provider gives you the same range of information
  • the new Reception baseline is required to provide a ‘cohort’ measure, and although some do state that their information can be used on an individual pupil basis, this is not the primary function required by the government. so look carefully at any offer of individual pupil level information and cost
  • as is usual in the first operational year, users will provide feedback to the providers, and changes are already occurring e.g. in the presentation of a question.

From September 2016, GOV.UK information states that you’ll only be able to use your Reception baseline to Key Stage 2 results to measure progress:

  • From the 2016 Reception cohort onwards, the Reception baseline assessment will be the only measure we use as the starting point for measuring progress to the end of Key Stage 2.
  • We will hold schools to account at the end of Key Stage 2 by the attainment of their pupils and the progress they have made.

When pupils who have taken the Reception baseline reach the end of Key Stage 2:

  • We will compare their score on the Key Stage 2 tests with other pupils who achieved the same score on the same Reception baseline.
  • We will use this score comparison for all pupils in a school, to produce the progress measure for the school. Pupils in a school do not need to have taken the same Reception baseline in order to be included in the measure, as the comparison will be national.

Leaders may wish to note that the judgement will be based on data by cohort, not by individual pupil, and, at this time, there is no information to indicated it will take into account changes over time to that cohort.

Further information from the NAHT notes that stand-alone junior schools will have no involvement with the Reception baseline process. Scores from feeder infant schools will not be imported. The reason for this is that the progress measure is over two key stages and to include the junior school would not be comparing like with like.

In addition, infant school leaders in particular may wish to note that from 2019 onwards, there are plans to calculate a progress measure from Reception baseline to end of Key Stage 1 outcomes. At this time, this would not have the status of a floor standard in terms of accountability.

Independent schools may use the Reception baseline, but their data will not be collected.

Where can I get additional and useful information to make my decision for 2015/2016?

1. From GOV.UK you will find the following:

The criteria used to assess the suitability of the Reception baseline assessments are available on GOV.UK. Schools are likely to receive advice on which product to choose from a variety of sources; however, schools are free to choose any accredited Reception baseline. All accredited Reception baseline assessments have met the DfE's quality criteria and are therefore considered to be appropriate assessments of Reception children on entry to school.

Please refer to the criteria for potential assessments for more information. If you have any further questions regarding the Reception baseline, contact the DfE national enquiry line on 0370 000 2288.

For information about how to sign up and pay for the new Reception baseline assessment, go to: Reception baseline assessment: guide to signing up your school.

The Standards and Testing Agency has approved the following providers for the Reception baseline assessment:

2. The NAHT has produced ‘Reception Baseline Guidance: March 2015’ that is available to members. This offers a concise overview and provides comparative information on the six providers in sequential summaries.

3. The Association for Professional Development in Early Years (TACTYC) has produced Guidance on Baseline Assessment in England: February 2015.This also offer comparative information, providing analysis of each provider in a tabular formats.

Some implications for leaders to consider:

You should choose the Reception baseline that best fits your school’s needs and approach to assessment.

If you opt in from September 2015: In 2022, the DfE will then use whichever measure shows the most progress – your Reception baseline to Key Stage 2 results, or your Key Stage 1 results to Key Stage 2 results.

If you choose not to use the Reception baseline in 2015, waiting until it becomes statutory: From 2023, the DfE will only hold you to account by your pupils’ attainment at the end of Key Stage 2. Currently, leaders may wish to note the floor standards rise to 85 per cent of the cohort to reach 100 scaled points in each of the mathematics and reading tests and to achieve the national standard in the teacher assessed writing.

As a result of conversations with headteachers and LA early years advisers, some additional implications to consider are listed below:

  • If your school has disadvantaged or ‘challenging’ intakes, choose a baseline that will give a clear picture of your school context.
  • Ofsted reports on the Foundation Stage, so in what ways do you want your baseline data to contribute to your evidence of pupil progress? (At this time, the EYFS profile is only statutory to 2016.)
  • Points referring to vital work to narrow gaps in Reception and Key Stage 1 indicate a broadening use of baseline data, reiterated in the NAHT point about use in 2019. In what ways do you want your baseline data to contribute to your evidence of progress and impact here?
  • Data formats: some approved providers have considered the assessment data formats that result from other products they have created, and have made deliberate connections; others have considered systems schools may be using, setting out to ensure that baseline assessment formats are compatible. If you are using a particular system, or resources by a specific provider, you may wish to consider compatibility.
  • Administration: some of the baselines make use of typical EYFS resources, while others use technology. While EYFS pupils may be comfortable using either, leaders should consider any cultural or operational limitations that could affect the accuracy/validity of responses. The time required to administer the assessment and to report or log the outcomes are presented in different ways, so should be carefully checked as part of choosing between approved baselines.
  • Costs: the basic requirement of provision of cohort data is covered (see GOV.UK). The providers differ in the additional data and reports that can be produced. When choosing a provider, check not only validity and ease of use of this data, but also what additional costs you may have to cover.

Tools to assist your analysis and choice:

  • Learning and Assessment Pathways offers an audit tool that can assist leaders in clarifying their requirement criteria for a baseline, which can then be used to filter the information on each provider. This tool focuses attention on clarity of purpose and the judgements you want to make, what data you will need, when and what format, and the validity of the assessment outcomes.
  • If you prefer to start with recommended questions to consider, offers a two page table of questions which you may wish to look at. Download the criteria chart here.


Ann O'Hara  is an independent education adviser, leadership coach and writer working with schools, Local Authorities and national organisations. Over more than 30 years in education, she has worked at many levels including, headteacher, Ofsted inspector, School Improvement Partner, senior local authority manager, and national adviser. Her latest work is the Learning and Assessment Pathways toolkit to help Primary Schools manage their assessment practices.

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