Socialist Worker

Baseline tests for four year olds are unfair and inaccurate, teachers' survey shows

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2490

Teachers and supporters protest against baseline tests at the NUT union conference last year

Teachers and supporters protest against baseline tests at the NUT union conference last year (Pic: Socialist Worker)

An overwhelming majority of teachers think new tests for four year olds are unfair or inaccurate, according to a survey. And many say the tests are an excuse for the Tories to attack teachers and push the market in education.

The research, by the ATL and NUT unions, found that just 7.7 percent of teachers agreed that baseline assessment “is a fair and accurate way to assess children”.

The Tories trialled the tests in primary schools last year. They want all schools to use them from this September. They involve testing children as soon as they arrive at school.

Nearly 60 percent of teachers questioned said the tests disrupted children’s start at school. One teacher said, “I did have children that were crying and were too upset to do anything. Some children just refused or just weren’t ready.”

One teacher said the tests stopped them focusing on children. Instead they worried about “how we are going to look compared to the school down the road and what our data is going to look like.”

Many teachers worried that the tests would be used to create league tables. One said baseline testing “serves no other purpose than to give the government another tool with which to bash teachers”.

The Tories say the tests will measure children at the start of school so that their progress can be evaluated later. They can then identify “failing” schools and teachers – and push privatisation as the solution.

Teachers pointed out that all the evidence shows that children cannot be accurately “measured” in this way. Several said results reflected children’s background, not the school.


Teachers and children don’t benefit from the tests. But private firms do.

Schools have to pay for training and cover staff as teachers spend time moderating and inputting data. Yet teachers assessed children themselves before the arrival of baseline tests.

As one headteacher said, “You are paying the private sector for the joy of delivering your own assessment.”

Another said simply, “This is not value for money.”

Head teachers surveyed were “uncomfortable with the use of private providers”. “Who are these people?” one head asked of the private firms.

They felt “vulnerable to the private sector”.

“We have been opened up to a completely free market,” said one. “Companies can really capitalise on the fear factor in schools. It is not healthy.”

Another said the testing “creates even more scope for people to make a buck”.

Teachers at the NUT union’s annual conference last year overwhelmingly backed a boycott of baseline tests. They voted to “begin a campaign towards a boycott in the summer term 2015, in time for members to be able to boycott the baseline assessments in the summer of 2016”.

Unions must fight to scrap these nasty tests.

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Article information

Fri 12 Feb 2016, 09:49 GMT
Issue No. 2490
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