Review finds ‘scant evidence’ children upset by P1 tests

John Swinney has said he will press ahead with his policy of assessments for P1 pupils.

Assessments: Labour accuses Swinney of 'arrogance' over policy.
Assessments: Labour accuses Swinney of 'arrogance' over policy.

There is “scant evidence” of primary one pupils becoming upset because of standardised assessments, an independent review has found.

The report published on Tuesday by literacy expert David Reedy recommended the controversial policy should continue but with “safeguards and modifications”.

Those changes include clarifying guidance around the tests for teachers and councils – and ensuring the setting for the tests remains “play-based” and not “high stakes”.

In a statement to MSPs, education secretary John Swinney said the Scottish Government would press ahead with P1 testing while accepting most of Mr Reedy’s recommendations in full.

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But he accepted the report does not give the government “an unqualified green light” on the tests, officially called Scottish National Standardised Assessments (SNSA).

Mr Reedy was appointed to officially review the assessments after MSPs voted last September that they should be “halted”, in a major defeat for the government.

Opponents say the tests, done on a computer and designed to measure literacy and numeracy, are unwanted by teachers, too stressful for youngsters and do not provide useful data.

Swinney told Holyrood: “The review has now concluded that the assessments should continue, that they can play a significant role in informing and enhancing teachers’ professional judgement – the very reason these assessments were introduced – and that there is scant evidence of children becoming upset when taking part.

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“I do not suggest the review has delivered an unqualified green light to the Scottish Government in terms of P1 assessments.

“Clearly it makes important recommendations about improvement and I am determined to take the valuable learning within the report and act upon it.”

Mr Reedy’s report said: “As part of teachers’ professional judgements the P1 SNSA offers a useful standard element within the overall evidence to inform judgements about learning and teaching.

“Despite concerns expressed about P1 SNSA data being used for high stakes purposes, the review has not found any evidence that benchmarks or P1 SNSA data are currently being used to set targets, make comparisons between schools, including league tables, or for teacher appraisal, nor that there are any plans to do so.”

It concluded: “The review finds that P1 SNSA has potential to play a significant role in informing and enhancing teachers’ professional judgements and should be continued with modification and safeguards against a drift towards high stakes.”

But opposition parties have accused the education secretary of “supreme arrogance” and of having “his head in the sand”.

Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary Liz Smith said: “John Swinney has his head in the sand.

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“He refuses to get the message that the Scottish Parliament voted to halt the P1 tests because all the opposition parties were listening to the concerns expressed by primary school teachers, parents and educational experts.

“They told us that the purpose of the tests was unclear and that there was no evidence that they provided any added educational benefit.

“What has been published today does not answer these basic concerns.”

Education spokesman for Scottish Labour, Iain Gray, said: “It remains an act of supreme arrogance for John Swinney to continue to defy the will of the Scottish Parliament.

“The parliament said in September that testing Primary 1 pupils must end, yet the SNP government continues to ignore that decision.

“The review reflects many of parliament’s concerns, including the lack of a clear rationale for the tests.

“It says the results cannot provide national data or compare school with school in the way ministers have repeatedly said they could.

“Parliament was right in September and it is still right today.”


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