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Department of Education

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A new report published by the British Educational Research Association and involving the department’s Senior Research Fellow, Professor Pam Sammons,  provides a critical review of  the government’s proposals for a baseline assessment of all children at reception entry, which will cost upward of £10 million.

The report ‘A baseline without basis: New report challenges the proposed reception baseline assessment in England‘ (published 4 July 2018) sets out the case against the government’s proposal to use a baseline assessment test of pupils in reception to hold schools in England to account for the progress that those pupils have made by the end of key stage 2, arguing that these are flawed, unjustified, and wholly unfit for purpose. The report goes on to state that these would be detrimental to children, parents, teachers, and the wider education system in England, and that the proposed baseline assessment will not lead to accurate or fair comparisons being made between schools because:

  • Any value-added calculations that will be used to hold school to account will be highly unreliable.
  • Children will be exposed to tests that will offer no formative help in establishing their needs and/or in developing teaching strategies capable of meeting them.

The report concluded that this an untried experiment that cannot be properly evaluated until at least 2027, when the first cohort tested at reception has taken key stage 2 tests.

The expert panel who authored the report, convened by BERA,  included: Harvey Goldstein, Gemma Moss, Pamela Sammons, Gwen Sinnott and Gordon Stobart

A new report published this week by the Women and Equalities Select Committee has cited evidence given by Professor Steve Strand (Professor of Education) on the educational indicators of the Race Disparity Audit – a programme examining the racial disparities in public services and across Government.

In his evidence to the review, Professor Strand demonstrated how education is key to later occupational, economic, health and well-being outcomes and to future social mobility more widely. His evidence stressed the importance of using differentiated ethnic categories rather than high level aggregations such as White/Black/Asian, and further argued for the importance of controlling for socio-economic factors to better understand the drivers of ethnic gaps in educational achievement. Professor Strand concluded that more high quality research was needed to address the ways in which multiple characteristics such as ethnicity, gender, SES and EAL interact and combine, in order to better understand the origins and drivers of achievement gaps and the implications for policy and intervention.

The Race Disparity Audit inquiry was launched in 2016 by Prime Minister Theresa May, with the first phase of the investigation aiming to identify, collate and present existing data on outcomes by race and ethnicity across public services – with the intention of influencing policy to solve the problems found.

Professor Strand’s research interests are in ethnic, social class and gender gaps in a wide range of educational outcomes such as achievement, progress, special education, exclusion, and he is particularly interested in the interface between equity and school effectiveness. He has worked extensively with Government departments, Local Authorities and individual schools on the analysis of pupil achievement data and school effectiveness. His methodological expertise is in the quantitative analysis of large and complex longitudinal datasets such as the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE) and the National Pupil Database (NPD). He leads the Quantitative Methods (QM) hub in the department.

Download The House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee Race Disparity Audit report here.

Professor Ted Melhuish (Professor of Human Development) gave oral evidence to the Education Committee on Tuesday 12 June to support a new inquiry examining the impact that early years education and social policy have on determining children’s life chances.

The session, which was the first in the inquiry, focused on early years education provision, support for parents and families and the role of children’s centres in promoting social justice. Fellow panel witnesses included Sir Kevan Collins (Chief Executive, Education Endowment Foundation), Laura McFarlane (Director of the LEAP Programme, National Children’s Bureau) and Steven McIntosh (Director of UK Poverty Policy, Advocacy and Campaigns, Save the Children).

Professor Melhuish is the director of the Study of Early Education and Development and an advisor to OECD, WHO, and the European Commission on early years education policy. His work uses theoretically driven research to address applied issues and policy questions to produce improvements in development and well-being. Current research projects involve evaluating interventions such as early childhood education and care (ECEC), parental support, early intervention strategies.

The inquiry which launched on 4 May 2018 will focus on early years educational settings but will also look at Government policy and make recommendations on how to improve social justice, while considering the role of services other than education, including health services and those provided by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Watch the meeting in full here: Parliament TV
Discover more about the Life Chances Inquiry