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Partial move to digital reception baseline test delayed

A move to introduce some on-screen elements to the baseline assessment taken by reception pupils has been delayed for a year.

The Standards and Testing Agency had planned to have pupils answer some reception baseline assessment (RBA) questions on a touchscreen device from this September.

But the government agency confirmed today that the approach would not be adopted until September 2025.

The assessment was introduced in 2021, and has now replaced key stage 1 SATs as the baseline against which pupil progress is tracked.

At present, pupils use “practical resources” such as worksheets and colourful objects to complete the tasks, and teachers record the results digitally on a separate tablet, laptop or computer.

When it comes into effect, the change will mean schools need two devices to administer the test.

One will be used by staff to administer the assessment, and pupils will need to use a “separate touchscreen device to respond to some of the questions”.

However, the assessment will “remain interactive and retain the use of physical resources for other questions”.

This change “supports accessibility and aligns with developments in classroom practice”, the STA said.

‘Very frustrating’ for schools

Sarah Hannafin, head of policy at the NAHT school leaders’ union, said it was “very frustrating that having spent time preparing for this change, schools are now being told that it will be delayed”.

However, she said members also “did not feel consulted about the proposed changes to the reception baseline assessment and were concerned about how accessibility may be reduced”.

“It is better to delay than to go ahead without proper development, testing and user research with schools.”

Hannafin said the delay “provides an opportunity for transparency from STA to share what the user testing shows about children’s and teachers experiences of the assessment, address any concerns and provide adequate funding for schools to purchase the required equipment to deliver the assessment”.

STA advice to schools states they should “consider how many devices they require, considering their number of reception classes and practitioners”.

Most schools “will already have the required devices and will not need to take any action”.

However, schools “must ensure their devices meet the criteria within this guidance to successfully administer the RBA from the academic year 2025 to 2026”.

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