Primary one tests to be reformed after feedback from teachers

Written by Gemma Fraser on 18 April 2019 in News

Calls have been made for the controversial tests to be scrapped

Image credit: Scottish Government

Controversial tests for primary one pupils are to be reformed following consultation with teachers.

Education Secretary John Swinney said the Scottish Government will make “immediate improvements” to the Scottish National Standardised Assessments (SNSAs).

The tests have been heavily criticised for putting unnecessary pressure on children and MSPs voted to halt them last year.

This led to an independent review of P1 assessments being ordered.

A separate report from the P1 Practitioner Forum suggested a number of areas for improvement, including stronger guidance to inform how teachers interact with and support children during the SNSA and how the test can be delivered in a way that is compatible with a play-based classroom environment.

Other recommendations include a publicly available rationale setting out the possible uses and purposes of the SNSA within the broader assessment framework of Scottish schools to ensure the tests are not perceived as “high stakes”.

The forum is independently chaired by Sue Ellis, Professor of Education at Strathclyde University, and is made up of primarily of P1 teachers, but also includes representatives from stakeholder groups and academics.

Swinney said: “I would like to thank the P1 Practitioner Forum for their recommendations, which are grounded in the realities of teaching P1 and are informed by their own experiences and professional knowledge.

“We will work to make immediate improvements where we can to enhance the experience of both learners and educators and ensure the assessments can continue to be delivered as part of everyday learning and teaching.

“Standardised assessments are an effective additional tool to support teacher professional judgement and identify next steps in a child’s learning. They can be particularly useful in the early years if we are to continue to close the attainment gap, although they remain just one part of the range of evidence a teacher can call on when assessing whether a child has achieved the appropriate CfE (Curriculum for Excellence) level.”

But the announcement has been criticised by opposition parties, who believe reforming the tests does not go far enough.

Scottish Labour’s education spokesman Iain Gray said: "This is absolutely farcical from John Swinney, and the latest example of him completely botching an issue in the education brief.

“The will of the Scottish Parliament is quite clear - it voted to scrap these tests for Primary 1 pupils.

"Not only has John Swinney ignored that for months, he is now ignoring his own independent review by pre-empting it.

“No wonder trust in the SNP from parents, pupils and teachers is draining away."

Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Tavish Scott added: “The last thing Scottish teachers want is yet more guidance to plough through. So much for reducing bureaucracy in the classroom.

“The government’s own review of testing has not yet reported so why would they throw out these recommendations? Once again, the government makes it up as they go along.”

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