Socialist Worker

Campaigners push Tories into U-turn over hated baseline tests for four year olds

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2498

Teachers and supporters say no to baseline testing

Teachers and supporters say no to baseline testing (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Teachers, parents and campaigners are celebrating after the Tories were forced into an embarrassing U-turn on baseline testing.

The government wanted children as young as four to sit the tests allegedly so they could measure “progress” throughout a child’s school life. It has now abandoned the plan, admitting that the tests can’t be accurately compared to each other.

Jess Edwards is a primary school teacher in London and a member of the NUT union’s national executive committee. She told Socialist Worker, “We’ve always said there is no comparability between these tests because they come from different providers.

“But the government wouldn’t care about that had it not been for campaigners putting baseline testing in the spotlight. We’ve put pressure on to get rid of the tests.”

The Tories hoped the tests would be another stick to beat teachers with. They wanted to use results to attack teachers and schools for failing to make sufficient “progress” with children’s learning.

They are still committed “in principle” to more testing. But they have suffered a serious setback.

Jess said, “The retreat is hugely significant. It’s the first blow in a bigger battle. Stopping baseline can undermine the whole basis of testing in primary schools.”


Teacher Sara Tomlinson is a leading activist against baseline and NUT member. She told Socialist Worker, “We are delighted to hear that the government is withdrawing baseline.

“They have clearly found a reverse gear. We need to keep the pressure up and make SATs and the phonics test our next target.

“These are all part of a plan to marketise our education system.”

The government’s plot to privatise education became clear last month, when it unveiled plans to force every school in England to become a privately-run academy. This would represent a huge transfer of wealth from public to private – and lay the basis for schools to be run for profit.

The NUT is preparing to ballot teachers for strikes over the impact of forced academisation and Tory funding cuts. Many teachers rightly see the Tories’ drive for more testing in schools as part of their drive to transform the nature of education.

As Jess put it, “Academies tend to involve more standardised testing. They make it easier for edubusiness to take hold of schools.

“We need to link the fight against testing to the battle against forced academisation.”

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