Swinney orders independent review of controversial P1 tests

Written by Gemma Fraser on 25 October 2018 in News

The Education Secretary says schools should continue with the tests until the outcome of the review

Image credit: Dods

Education Secretary John Swinney has announced plans to commission an independent review of standardised assessments for primary one pupils – but insists schools continue the tests in the meantime.

Primary one testing has been a controversial policy, with claims young children have been left in tears as a result, while teaching unions have raised serious concerns.

Parliament voted to put a halt to the testing of five-year-olds last month, but Swinney remains convinced that Scottish National Standardised Assessments should not be abolished.

In a statement, he announced that an independent review will be led by “what is best for pupils”.

He said: “Ultimately, I acknowledge that Parliament has formally taken a position that P1 assessments should be halted.

“But I also contend we must give due consideration to the established practice of the overwhelming majority of local authorities who carried out a form of P1 assessment believing that to be in the best interests of pupils.

“We face two competing considerations.

“I have therefore decided to commission an independent review of the approach to P1 assessments within the context of the National Improvement Framework.

“The objective of the review will be to “reconsider the evidence” as the Parliamentary motion asked me to.”

Swinney has asked Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education for advice on who would be best placed to carry out the review.

He added: “I ask colleagues across the Chamber to move this discussion away from politics, to focus on the educational needs of our children and to support the independent review of P1 assessments.”

But the Education Secretary was once again accused of not listening to teachers and parents.

Labour’s education spokesman Iain Gray said: “John Swinney began his statement by saying he wishes to address the intent of the parliamentary motion.

“But that is just not true. The intent of the motion, and the will of this parliament could not be clearer – it is that the national tests stop for primary one.

“This whole statement is his justification for refusing to respect the motion and defying this parliament.

“John Swinney demands that we focus on educational arguments, when that is exactly what we did in reaching the conclusion we did a month ago.  Parliament listened to teachers, parents and the educational arguments and voted accordingly.

“It is the politics of the cabinet secretary’s pride and hubris which needs to be set aside here.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesman Tavish Scott said: “Teachers say national testing of five-year-old boys and girls add nothing to their knowledge of the child’s progress.

“So why are primary school teachers, parents and even the government's educational advisors wrong and John Swinney is right?"

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