Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME)

ACME statement on the reception baseline assessment

10 February 2015

Six providers of the reception baseline assessment have been approved by the Department for Education.

By the end of April, government‑funded schools that wish to use the assessment measure from September must choose from: the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM), Durham University; Early Excellence; GL assessment; Hodder Education; the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER); and Speech Link.

In 2022, the government will then use whichever shows the most progress the reception baseline to key stage 2 results or the key stage 1 to key stage 2 results.

Those schools that choose not to use the baseline assessment will be held to account by their pupils' attainment at the end of key stage 2 from 2023.

ACME has questioned the usefulness of a baseline assessment in mathematics, whether at Key Stage 1 or reception.

The Committee has highlighted issues with new baseline assessments for reception, such as:

  • Very young children will be assessed but scores will not take account of whether children are born in the summer.
  • Children will have varied pre-school backgrounds, in terms of cultures, experience of settings and knowledge of English.
  • Schools will have an undesirable incentive to depress scores in order to increase measured progress, especially if this means attaining extra funding.
  • What is considered key or informative in testing may also vary across schools.

For accountability, it would be adequate to compare the outcomes of primary schools with similar intakes of children. This would be the most cost-effective and arguably the fairest system for schools.

There are issues around over testing children. Giving children mathematics scores which stay with them throughout their primary schooling has the potential to create fixed mindsets about mathematics ability for teachers, children and parents, rather than fostering high expectations and positive attitudes [1].

ACME advises that to ensure that the future system is fair and transparent, schools should be advised that commercially produced baseline assessment are optional. They should be advised that there is a choice between reception baseline assessments for primary schools, a Key Stage 1 baseline for junior schools and no baseline at all for schools who opt out. Baseline assessment must also be uncoupled from school funding arrangements.

Nick Gibb responded to this and another letter, detailing that the points raised by ACME had been noted and would be passed on to officials in the Department for Education working on mathematics reforms.

The ATM and MA have also highlighted the issues with baseline assessments. David Laws responded to this letter.

[1] Boaler, J., (2013)" Ability and Mathematics: the mindset revolution that is shaping education", Forum, 55(1):

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