Call to replace P1 testing with investment in school ventilation

The Scottish Lib Dems say the investment could help eliminate the need for masks in classrooms much quicker.

Call to replace P1 testing with investment in school ventilation iStock
Lib Dems: Party call for end to testing of P1 pupils.

Reading, writing and numeracy testing of primary one pupils should be scrapped with the money instead spent on air filters for classrooms, the Scottish Liberal Democrats have said.

Standardised testing of literacy and maths takes place in Scottish schools at P1, P4, P7 and S3, with the results used to monitor progress and assess whether pupils may need additional support.

Holyrood’s Education Committee has been told the cost of two contractors to carry out the assessments is expected to be £17m over the next five years.

Scottish Lib Dem education spokesman Willie Rennie has now called for the Scottish Government to end standardised testing of four and five-year-olds, and put the money towards better ventilation.

He said: “Scottish Liberal Democrats and education campaigners won a hard-fought parliamentary victory to call for the scrapping of standardised testing of P1 pupils.

“In response, the flailing Government claimed that the tests were endorsed by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), yet the OECD are clear that they now recommend scrapping them.

“There is no evidence that they improve schooling and there is persistent criticism from professional teachers.

“Rather than spend millions more on standardised testing, Scottish Liberal Democrats want to see this money used to put an air filter in every classroom.

“This would make classrooms safer, have a long-term benefit in terms of reducing cold and flu outbreaks and allow us to eliminate the need for masks much faster.”

Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville last week said schools have made few major changes to improve ventilation in classrooms because councils “have been reassured that what is in place is adequate”.

She told the Education Committee there has been “limited action” required to increase air flow in classrooms so far, and she is not aware of any cases where councils are unable to make improvements because of a lack of money.

It followed an announcement from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of extra capital funding for “any remedial work that councils need to do to improve air flow and comply with the new guidance”.

The latest Scottish Government guidance recommends teachers rely primarily on opening external doors and windows for fresh air but should “balance requirements for ventilation with internal temperatures and conditions” during the winter.