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Reception baseline assessment and social distancing expectations

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A message from NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman to members

Reception baseline assessment

Many of you have been in touch with us over the last few weeks to ask for an update on the reception baseline assessment, which was due to take place in all schools in September.    

We have had a clear message from members that, given the current context, it would not be appropriate or indeed possible to press ahead with the statutory implementation of the baseline assessment in September 2020.    

NAHT has been in regular discussions with the Department for Education (DfE) over the past weeks, and we recommended that the government should delay its implementation by 12 months to September 2021.    

This morning, we have seen the pragmatic decision by the government to delay the assessment by a year, as we suggested. We have supported this move and welcomed the much-needed clarity it provides for schools as they prepare for the autumn term.    

We are pleased that the DfE has listened to our advice and the views of our members. Clearly, there is still no certainty at the current time as to what will happen in the autumn term, and we all know that further disruption in the 2020/21 academic year is almost inevitable. Furthermore, we know that most children will not have had the opportunity to take part in the usual transition activities before starting school and that teachers will need to be focusing on this vital recovery work as they return in the new academic year.    

We are aware that the government is offering schools a voluntary opportunity to participate in the reception baseline assessment in the autumn, and we would reiterate that participation is entirely a choice for each school. For those schools who do want to participate, the assessment window has been moved into the second half of the autumn term. It is also important to point out that as with the pilot year, data from the early adopter year will not be used in any form of accountability for those schools who do take part.    

In terms of the wider implications, this could mean that the removal of key stage one statutory assessments is also put back. We are urging the government to consider sticking to the original timescales when it comes to removing key stage one assessments. This is in line with our long-standing position of reducing the number of statutory tests and assessments that take place in the primary years overall.    

We know that members will still have many questions, including the role of the phonics check, the multiplication check, performance tables and proposed changes to the EYFSP. We are currently talking to the DfE about all these issues, and we are urging them to clarify their position as soon as possible.    

As soon as we have more information, we will share that with you.

The DfE's social distancing expectations  

I also wanted to take this opportunity to respond to the DfE's email referring to social distancing expectations that many of you will have received last night. Like many of you, we were unimpressed by the tone of that email. Given the lack of clarity and the conflicting messages contained within the protective measures guidance, it is disingenuous to suggest that the position has ever been as definitive as is now being claimed. You have asked us to communicate your strength of feeling on this issue, and we will do so today.   

And finally     

Some of you may have seen headlines today about the government’s apparent plans for a return to school in September and rumours about what this might mean when it comes to social distancing. While I do not have any updates to share with you currently, I want to reassure you that we will be working today, tomorrow and throughout the weekend to try to ensure that as many of your questions as possible are addressed in the government’s guidance.

First published 25 June 2020