Government works on digital tool for assessments of reception pupils

Supplier sought to help build platform to support standardised ‘baseline assessment’ of four-year-old children introduced this academic year 

Credit: Mushamir/CC BY-SA 4.0

The government is working on a nationwide digital platform for the delivery of new standardised assessments for four-year-old children starting school.

The reception baseline assessment, introduced from this academic year, assesses “early literacy, communication, language and mathematics skills when [pupils] begin school”, according to information for parents published by the Standards and Testing Agency (STA) – an arm’s-length body of the Department for Education.

The process is designed to take about 20 minutes to administer. 

“Pupils will use practical resources to complete the tasks and teachers will record the results on a laptop, computer or tablet,” said STA guidance for teaching staff. 

The government has stressed that the assessment is not a test that can be passed or failed, and that children and parents do not need to prepare in any way beforehand. The purpose of the process is “to create a starting point to measure the progress schools make with their pupils” between reception and year 6 – at which point children move from primary to secondary school.

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The STA has already built a “digital assessment service platform… with some capability to support the development and delivery of the assessment”, according to a recently published contract notice. The tender document added that the project to build the digital tool is currently in beta phase, and has delivered a platform considered to be a minimum viable product.

A supplier is being sought to assist in ongoing development of the system, including trials during the remainder of this academic year and into the next, and then “live delivery in September 2023” of the finished product.

Bids for the project are open until midnight on 18 March, with the STA hoping to enter into a 22-month contract with the winning bidder in early June.

“We need to design and develop an end-state digital assessment service so that we can offer valid, adaptive and secure digitised assessments,” the contract notice said. “The aim is for the solution to secure value for money and deliver a positive user experience achieved through design and processes, creating schools and STA efficiencies.”

The digital assessment tool will have a variety of different user groups with varying needs, the testing agency indicated.

These will include pupils, who will “need to be able to move through the assessment so that using the technology does not affect [their] ability to indicate [their] response” – regardless of any educational needs, or physical or cognitive impairments.

Other users include teachers, headteachers, and school admin staff, as well as those developing material for the assessments, who “need to create, find, view, edit, and archive test material so that [they] can develop a valid, reliable and fair assessment”.

Once a supplier has been appointed, the chosen firm will be expected to join STA in-house digital teams in either Coventry or Manchester at least two days a week.

“Travel to other DfE sites and schools to meet users is expected,” the notice said.


Sam Trendall

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