In recent weeks, I have engaged with others on social media about Baseline Assessment, and many really do not understand why I am against it, and there is a lot of confusion about just what it is that I am against

Some say ‘Is it the assessment of the children?

NO – It is not, I am not against assessment, all early years practitioners assess the children in one form or another. I personally do not like tick box assessment, or the type of assessment that involves filling in charts and tracking documents, or marking off against criteria, but I do of course assess the children. Assessment is not the thing that I am against, as it is vital that early years practitioners know each child really well……..

…….. and most do, ask them to tell you about a child in their care, and they can, in detail, and without reference to any document – they ‘know’ the children.

Some say ‘Is it the systems that have been approved by the government for baseline assessment?’

NO – not really, they are just systems – like the hundreds of methods before them, disc based systems, paper based systems, computer based systems – some terrible, some OK, and some quite good. In my opinion some of the baseline systems that have been approved, should never have been approved as unrealistic, too formal, too screen based, not developmental appropriate; other approved systems are better because based on observations and practitioner knowledge; but at the end of the day they are all systems that are being sold to make money for those that invented them / put them together.  No one is giving them away because they think everyone should have free access because in the best interests of the children.

And here I am going to stick my neck out – and risk a barrage of negative feedback comments.

Colleagues in reception classes, you often tell me that you consider your observations linked to your knowledge of child development are key to assessing the children, especially things like schema’s, characteristics of effective learning and so on – SO WHY do you need to sign up to someone else’s ‘system’? Where is your faith in yourselves and the systems you had in place –  in your heads, in your notes books , in your recording documentation before the ‘selling’ of these baseline systems. WHY did you think your systems were suddenly not ‘good enough?’

Some say ‘ Well is it because you prefer the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile?’

NO- I have commented  frequently that I do not like the Early Learning Goals, and furthermore I see no point in referencing everything to Development Matters or indeed any other document – yes use them as reference documents for guidance or even reassurance, but don’t treat them as check lists, or the one and only way to evidence a child’s development, because children do not develop in nice straight lines. They dip in and out of things, linger over some things, skip some things but go back to them at a later point. In my own practice I refuse to track development  to this extent and just state if a child is working within the broad stage descriptors.

So NO I don’t prefer the EYFSP – far from it – I hate the goals –  I would like it scrapped – BECAUSE  I would prefer to see assessment without any levels or targets or Yes / No statements. SO rather than scrap EYFSP in favour of Baseline assessment which will have to run for several years before anyone will consider or be able to afford to replace it; I would prefer to keep ‘the devil we know’ rather than take on a ‘devil we don’t know’ and spend my time and energy campaigning for practitioner led assessment that are only used to support the individual child.

Those of you following what I am trying to explain, will be ahead of me now

Some say ‘Is it the sending data or information to government that is the issue?’

YES, YES and YES again,  The EYFSP provides  data towards the end of reception, and this is bad enough, as the data has NOTHING to do with supporting individual children. It is all about setting ‘one size fits all targets’, all about making teachers take responsibility for MAKING SURE every child has been made to tick all the boxes, all in the same way and all by the same date – no matter what their age is, their life experiences, their interests, their anything – they just have to meet the criteria – otherwise they FAIL, and they will NEVER catch up, NEVER succeed and so on.


But I digress, Baseline Assessment is worse, far worse because it has taken the idea of formal measurable assessment to the beginning of reception – where will it go next – to three year olds? And what will the government do with that data – we all know deep inside – they will set new targets for both teachers and children, and if either fail to meet those targets, they may as well give up,  because they will have failed.

STICKING MY NECK OUT AGAIN – but WHY have people signed up to these baseline assessment systems when it is not compulsory? WHY are reception colleagues saying I signed up to this system because I liked it, because it matches my previous system best?

Am I really that stupid? Because I don’t understand, colleagues tell me that children must learn through play, not be forced to do things that they are not interested in, must be free to select, make choices, learn at their own pace, that goals are not needed, that targets should not be set …….

…… and yet thousands have signed up to a baseline system …. WHY? and WHY NOW before a legal requirement?

I am now going to be annoying, having asked the question – I am going to state why I think this is so

Teachers have been  pressurised to sign up through fear that if they don’t, they will lose the right to select the system they prefer

Heads have put pressure on staff to choose, so that don’t have to provide ‘evidence’ through other methods

AND teachers have decided to select certain systems because the best of the available systems – not what they really want to do BUT because they feel if they HAVE to choose one system, it is better to be the one they prefer. SO MANY HAVE SAID ……. IF WE HAVE TO HAVE A BASELINE SYSTEM, this is the best option.

Common sense says to me – NO, DON’T SIGN UP – that is what the government want, thousands of you saying by your actions ‘We approve of baseline, look, see we have signed up’.

In my opinion, you will now be putty in their hands, do not be surprised that by signing up to baseline assessment – even if a system you like – you will be subjected in the future to more pressure to formalise your teaching, to set targets, to push children forward to these targets, to lose the ability to use your professional judgement.

Maybe I am wrong, maybe the government will leave you alone to do what you do best and teach within your principles and ethos – I hope so. I really hope I am wrong but many, many years of life experiences tells me I am right to be concerned

So in a nutshell it is the signing up to the whole baseline assessment thing  that I have an issue with, because I fear  the thin line of compliance has been crossed and the government have you (us) just where they want us.

To end, some what if questions for consideration

What if no one had signed up to baseline?

What if the companies concerned had said NO – and not provided these systems?

What if all schools had stood by their principles, and said assessment at this age is not needed, in fact is wrong?

What if the government say – actually you will all now use this system, and it is not the one you prefer?

What if as a result of these assessments,  government say we now have proof play is not working, the children need to be able to do set tasks, answer set questions?

So many ‘What if’s’.

Do I trust the Government? – No, I don’t because they do not understand child development and child well being, they only understand the need to look after number one – themselves. (well most of them, there are a few that have morals and better understanding)

Posted October 5, 2015 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues


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  1. Well said!!!!! Some interesting points X

  2. Couldn’t agree more!
    Well said, Penny!

  3. Hi Penny, Great blog post and thought provoking.

  4. Wow! Thought provoking stuff! Out of interest, it was the Head who signed up and delivered all of the assessments, us teachers have been presented with the results and targets…such fun! It’s actually the first time I’ve ever felt like truely quitting. I’m so sad for all of the children in my class who have been lumped together into one score for literacy and maths. Nothing else. Just literacy and maths.

    • That is interesting that the head has done the assessments – does she know the children, do the children know her? I think it is very hard to assess anyone fairly in such a short time frame, when they are in a new environment, with adults they have yet to learn to trust (this is not a reflection on teachers, just the system)

      I know from on line social media groups that I am in, that in some schools it is the teachers that are doing the assessments – and many are struggling to decide what it is they are assessing, and what counts and what doesn’t.

      It seems to me as an outsider (I have knowledge of the systems but don’t use any of them) that there are so many variables that how can any conclusion be made. So I was interested in your comment about lumping together – hardly for the child’s benefit is it? Not surprised you felt like quitting.
      I am now even more concerned about the governments agenda

      Thank you for commenting

  5. Pingback: Please can someone tell me why gathering information about cohorts of children is good – for children or schools? | Penny's Place Childminding

  6. I have just had my inspection where I was marked as Inadequate – i too feel that the actual care of the children has taken second place to linking observations to Developmental Matters – i find it galling that one of the main statements is “Every Child Is Unique” when we are forced to pigeonhole them into criteria such as the EYFS. I am desparate to quit and i wish you well in your new EYFS free life!

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