Baseline Testing: Education Requires Brave Politicians

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Should 4-year-old children sit school exams?

Do we want an education system that compels each student to be like everyone else, or do we want a system where every student can make their own choices? As an educator, I know what I would prefer. A happy medium …

Age-appropriate testing?

In England, the Department for Education announced its intentions to test baseline knowledge of 4-year-old pupils.

The DfE state: “Schools will carry out the assessment within the first 6 weeks of children starting school. It will be an activity based assessment of pupils’ ability in language, communication and literacy, and mathematics. The assessment will be age appropriate, last approximately 20 minutes and teachers will record the results on a laptop, computer or tablet. It will not be used to label or track individual pupils. No numerical score will be shared, and the data will only be used at the end of year 6 to form the school-level progress measure.

Oh, the irony.

More funding, yet same performance?

It is deeply ironic, that the 5th largest economy in the world continues to flounce around the middle of PISA league tables for performance. The same could be said for our assessment procedures – which have an increased focus – on high-stakes testing, student performance; judged by one’s relation to the average total score.

With exclusions numbers at their highest and unprecedented records of mental health, the damage this may cause has already been signposted. One could be forgiven for believing that with ‘more spending on schools than ever before’, our English schools are meeting the needs of all our pupils.

This is not true.

Don’t be fooled!

Over the past century, we have perfected the education system, yet no test in the world can reliably assess what pupils do at 4 years old and then predict expected performance at aged 16. This is simply a fallacy, yet a genuine intention of these tests. Instead, we must support children by designing an improved model of assessment where all pupils can be successful, not just those who sit above the bell curve.

We can do it differently, yet we need our politicians to understand assessment as a starting point. Can we start with politicians and their understanding of the purpose for assessment? To sit beside…

This post is in support of The Assessment FOR Children Charter.


  1. Mastery Transcript: there is another way
  2. The End of Average
  3. Do Exams Fail Our Pupils? – and in video
  4. The Problem with Average
  5. Department for Education: Reception baseline assessment
  6. Department for Education: Exclusion statistics


In 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account in which he rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on social media in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated for '500 Most Influential People in Britain' in The Sunday Times as one of the most influential in the field of education - he remains the only classroom teacher to feature to this day ... Sharing online as @TeacherToolkit, he rebuilt this website (c2008) into what you are now reading, as one of the 'most influential blogs on education in the UK', winning the number one spot at the UK Blog Awards (2018). Today, he is currently a PGCE tutor and is researching 'social media and its influence on education policy' for his EdD at Cambridge University. In 1993, he started teaching and is an experienced school leader working in some of the toughest schools in London. He is also a former Teaching Awards winner for 'Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School, London' (2004) and has written several books on teaching (2013-2018). Read more...

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