X Close

Institute of Education Blog

Home

Expert opinion from academics at the UCL Institute of Education

Menu

Baseline assessment: will early childhood education be further commercialised?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital2 April 2019

Guy Roberts-Holmes. 

Last month the Department for Education (DfE) invited primary schools to volunteer to take part in the national Reception Baseline Assessment 2 (RBA2) test pilot planned for September 2019. If successful, it will be made statutory for all primary schools in 2020.

The DfE states that RBA2’s purpose is to provide a snapshot starting point for a measure to assess the progress of the cohort as a whole, from where pupils are when they arrive at reception class aged 4 to the end of primary school in Year 6, aged 11.

This is not the English Government’s first attempt at a national Baseline Assessment test for four-year-olds. That was in 2016, when it was scrapped  as a performance measure (more…)

Reception baseline assessment: dangerous, inappropriate and flawed data

Blog Editor, IOE Digital15 September 2017

Alice Bradbury and Guy Roberts-Holmes. 
In its response to the consultation document Primary Assessment in England  the Government announced its intention to make baseline assessment statutory (along with the existing EYFS Profile) from Autumn 2020. Justine Greening’s Ministerial forward states that the Reception Baseline Assessment ‘must produce data that is reliable and trusted’.
However our research into the 2015 Reception Baseline Assessment, which involved interviewing Reception teachers and a nationwide survey of teachers, found that the data it produced were unreliable and not trustworthy. Even with a newly introduced cohort level analysis we contend that Reception Baseline Assessment will still produce inappropriate, flawed and inaccurate data.
This announcement follows the failed policy of Reception Baseline Assessment, introduced (more…)

The experts who put storytelling, language and better paid teachers at the heart of early education

Blog Editor, IOE Digital6 September 2017

File 20170904 17933 uzdoa9
Thinking ahead.
Shutterstock

Natalia Kucirkova 
There are a lot of things to remember at the start of a new school term. Uniforms, sports kit, stationery equipment, activity clubs … Often forgotten are the names of the people behind the learning which actually goes on once pupils arrive in the classroom. Not the teachers who do the teaching – but the academics who worked out how children learn.
Jerome Bruner, Catherine Snow and Kathy Sylva are not familiar names you might recognise from TV panel shows. But their original ideas have become widespread and deeply rooted in early education systems worldwide. My own collaboration with Sylva and Snow taught me the importance of patient, humble and systematic research.
Bruner, who died last year at the age of 100, was a professor at Harvard and then (more…)

Closing the gap: we need the best teachers in the most deprived schools

Blog Editor, IOE Digital4 September 2017

Becky Francis. 
Our society is stuck in a rut on social mobility – or rather, immobility. For decades, governments of every persuasion have sought to improve social mobility, to narrow the gap between young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers. But that gap – in education, income, housing, health – continues to yawn. It is time to think more radically.
Recent months have seen a steady flow of research evidence documenting this problem. Two reports published this summer are good examples. Closing the Gap: Trends in Educational Attainment and from the Education Policy Institute, reveals that the most disadvantaged pupils in England are now on average more than two full years of learning behind non-disadvantaged pupils by the end of secondary school. (more…)

A profession of uncertainty: the Reggio Emilia image of the ‘rich’ teacher

Blog Editor, IOE Digital20 April 2016

Peter Moss
In last month’s blog, I introduced a new book about Loris Malaguzzi, one of the 20th century’s great educationalists, whose legacy is the world-famous municipal schools of Reggio Emilia in Northern Italy. One of Malaguzzi’s great achievements was to build this system of council-run schools for children from birth to 6 years with the active participation of a collaborative network of stakeholders: children, parents, citizens, city politicians and officials – and teachers. A teacher himself, by education and in his early career, Malaguzzi not only understood teaching but devoted much thought and effort to creating a team of valued, competent and supported teachers for Reggio’s municipal schools.
His starting point was the meaning of education and the image of the teacher. Education, he was clear, was holistic, education-in-its-broadest-sense: not only teaching, but ‘assistance with the psychological growth and maturity of every human being, to allow their personality to expand in as rich and as individually and socially normal a way as possible.’ And just as his political choice was for the image of the rich child, so that called for an accompanying image of the ‘rich’ teacher, for such children demand ‘rich intelligence in others, rich curiosity in others, a very high and advanced capacity for fantasy, imagination, learning and culture’.
‘Rich’ teachers had to be open to, indeed welcome, the unexpected and uncertainty. Ours, (more…)

Our youngest children deserve better than a fragmented patchwork of services

Blog Editor, IOE Digital5 February 2014

Peter Moss

Hardly a month goes by without yet another report – from government, charities or think tanks – about the need to fix England’s early childhood services. Split between ‘childcare’ and ‘early education’, with a fragmented and incoherent patchwork of services, and combining high cost to parents with a poorly paid and poorly qualified workforce: we find ourselves in a hole, and don’t seem to know what to do. The hole, though, has been there a long time, and we’ve had opportunities to get out.
Back in the early 1970s, in the midst of a half century of post-war government neglect of early childhood services, some reformers saw the way forward. Appalled at the fragmented, incoherent and unresponsive state of these services, Jack Tizard, IOE Professor and founder of the Thomas Coram Research Unit, argued for the creation of “multi-purpose children’s centres offering part and full-time care with medical and other services, to a very local catchment area”. These services would be both responsive and free – since “for a society which provides free education, including free higher education, and free child health services, a free pre-school service is a logical corollary”.
But he did more than argue for change: he acted. Two demonstration Children’s Centres were established, in Camden and Westminster, to examine the feasibility and possibilities of this type of provision. Others followed suit.
Governments of the day, though, showed no interest; and when Children’s Centres did finally gain a place in early childhood policy under New Labour, it was a case of too little, too late. Instead of being the basis for a comprehensive system of multi-purpose services readily available to all, they were tacked on to a ramshackle system that had grown more fragmented, incoherent and unresponsive since the 1970s, adding yet another type of provision to the existing confusion of day nurseries, playgroups, nursery schools and nursery and reception classes – all jostling for customers in a chaotic marketplace.
Now, under austerity, those Centres that were established are being eroded by cuts and undermined by an increasing emphasis on provision for the most disadvantaged children. The original dream of a universal, inclusive and responsive service has not been realised, the opportunity lost.
Other countries were more far-sighted. Sweden in the 1960s and 1970s took the opportunity to recast its split services, to build what is today a fully integrated system of early childhood education and care. This offers an entitlement for all children from 12 months to 6 years, with a well qualified workforce, made affordable by a combination of free attendance and capped fees. All this is based on the ‘preschool’, a centre providing for all children in its local community, where (in the words of the Swedish Preschool Curriculum) “care, socialisation and learning form a coherent whole” and democracy is affirmed as a fundamental value.
England has had its opportunities to get its act together, not just in the 1970s but also in 1997 when New Labour came to power pledged to make early years a priority. But instead of getting out of the hole, instead of taking time to consider what we wanted and needed, we kept digging, taking the seemingly easy route of more of the same.
Are we destined for an endless round of overblown government rhetoric (‘More great childcare’!), parental complaints and peripheral changes? Are we unable to learn from places that really do have ‘world class’ services? Perhaps the answer is ‘yes’ – but it’s still worth one final attempt at producing a proper Early Childhood Strategy, with a ten-year goal of a fully integrated system, a well qualified professional workforce and Children’s Centres offering a responsive and inclusive service to all our children.