MSPs vote to halt P1 testing

Written by Tom Freeman on 20 September 2018 in News

Finnish education guru Pasi Sahlberg defends Scottish model of standardised assessments after MSPs vote to halt them in defeat for government

Scottish Parliament - Anita Gould

Standardised testing of primary one pupils should be stopped, according to the majority of MSPs.

A Conservative motion calling on the Scottish Government to halt the tests for 5 year-olds was backed by 63 votes to 61 last night, isolating the minority SNP government.

The assessments were introduced last year, but teachers have reported they have caused distress and anxiety for younger pupils at a time when the curriculum is supposed to be focused on play-based learning.

Ministers maintain the assessments are not high-stakes testing.

The motion carried last night is not binding, but sends a signal to Education Secretary John Swinney that parliament does not back the assessments.

Opposition parties have called on him to "respect the will of parliament".

Swinney said the Conservatives were "playing politics" with the motion, since the party had backed standardised testing in its 2016 manifesto.

Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith said: "We are listening to what is being said by those who are being asked by deliver the tests, and it is why I am proposing this motion, which asks the government to stop and think.

"Halt the P1 tests so that we can reconsider the facts before us, and the whole approach to evaluating pupil progress in P1."

Scottish Green education spokesman Ross Greer said even John Swinney's own advisor Andy Hargreaves disputed the effectiveness of standardised testing, as reported by Holyrood last year.

He said: “The concerns that Greens have raised are not limited to the P1 tests. The whole concept of standardised testing does more harm than good to our young people. John Swinney should follow the evidence, accept the will of parliament and scrap the tests immediately.”

However, another of the international advisers, Finnish education expert Pasi Sahlberg, defended the Scottish model.

"P1 assessment in Scotland is not a standardised test. It is a diagnostic tool to support teachers' professional decisions and judgement. We are critical to high-stakes standardised testing, not this one," he tweeted.

"My understanding is that the P1 is diagnostic adaptive tool to help teachers judging some aspects of students' state of literacy and numeracy. Results are available in real time. I'm not sure what the central gov could do with these non-comparable data other than a big picture?"

In response to the vote, Swinney said: "In light of the Scottish Parliament debate on P1 assessment, I will consider outcome and make a Parliamentary statement in due course. The Scottish Government still believes assessment is an important part of improvement agenda and I advise schools to continue with their existing plans on SNSAs."



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