Don’t fall into the baseline trap!

You may have seen my previous post; ‘When do we expect children to be at their best?’ This post will cover some of what was mentioned there but with a Covid-19 ‘spin’.

I am so passionate about how, for want of a better word, useless, baseline tests are I am going to outline my reasons for this is a series of bullet points. As you know, if you have read a post of mine before, this is not usual my style but I feel that this is such a key area that it needs to a ‘straight to the point approach’

So why are baseline tests (before half term at the very least) far from reliable:

  • Fear! Simple as that. Many of the children who start a new school are scared for a period of time. Whether this is a new phase or a mid year transfer. Question- as a professional adult, do you perform at your best when you are scared?
  • Irritation! For some of our children, the idea that they are starting their new school path with a test will annoy them. Isn’t school supposed to be at least interesting, maybe even a bit fun? Tests as soon as you walk through the door are neither of those things, for the majority! I have spend hours with children in year 7, researching how they feel about the early days in school. I have never encountered a positive response if they have been tested. One child made it very clear that he gave the wrong answers on purpose in protest! Question- How many times (either as an adult or think back to pre-teen hormones) have you ‘thrown your toys out of the Pram’ when you deem something unfair?
  • Experience- Wow, now this year isn’t this a biggy! At the time of going to press we still have no idea when the children will be returning to school. So we have not only the different ways the they will have been taught across a number of schools before lockdown, you will then have how they have been learning throughout lockdown! That in itself causes huge problems. Now let’s assume that year 6 can go back before July. Does that mean they all will? Personally I can’t see how they will return full time and even then will some parents vote with their feet and not send children back? It is something most educators are aware could happen. Question – How successful have you been home educating your children and working from home? Are your children ready to show how clever they are as soon as they walk through the school gates?
  • Results- What are you planning on doing with the results? Usually when you test children at any point in a school year you have your knowledge of the children to decide if the test result is a true reflection of what they can do. You can do this become you know the children. You know how they work, you know if they have clearly had a bad day, or even managed a great day! Even if you do baseline in September or October of year 7, you have Sats results and TA to help triangulate the information. How useful is data, collected under extenuating circumstances, with no other factors to consider going to be? What will you use it for? Setting? That’s a trap, a risk that more children than ever before will be misplaced. Target setting? Why?? Question- if you cannot be confident in the data are you wasting time collecting it?

If we are not going to test, what do we do?

  • Curriculum- this is key! Can or should you start teaching KS3 curriculum when they haven’t even finished KS2? Are we just creating bigger gaps rather than filling small ones?
  • Ofsted- I know it’s not a popular thing to consider but consider it we must. There is NO data that Ofsted will ever look at for these children? Anything you receive or produce will be internal so never considered! What they will look at is curriculum, so I refer back to my earlier point!
  • Relationships- you may know I wrote a list about this a while ago. I feel that this year more than any other we have to get to know the children first and foremost. We need to help them feel secure in their new surroundings so that we can ask them to give us their best! Without the relationships a class teacher will never know what a child is truly capable off. The mental health and well-being of all of our stakeholders is key. Our staff and parents will also be stressed and going through a huge change. Spend the time getting to know each other so we can all give our best!

You can probably imagine I have an awful lot more to say on this matter and of course every child, school, teacher and family will be different. So for now I beg you:

Do not fall into the baseline trap