Changes announced to P1 testing

28 August 2018, 16:19

school classroom

The Education Secretary has announced changes to controversial tests for primary one pupils after concerns were raised by teachers and parents.

In an open letter to parents of P1 children, John Swinney said he had listened to feedback and had agreed "enhancements" to the assessments in order to "provide extra reassurance".

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) said the move would "do little to allay the very serious concerns held by many teachers".

The changes include the replacement of some problematic questions with alternatives of a similar difficulty, while other questions will be redesigned or reordered.

An improvement forum is to be set up to look at all aspects of the P1 testing experience, while hints and tips on effective classroom management will be shared with teachers.

A Scottish Government review of the first year of standardised assessments concluded the questions were "stage appropriate" and said there were no plans to change the range of difficulty of the questions at P1 level.

It was published alongside more feedback from the EIS which highlighted continuing concerns about the amount of time and manpower required at P1 level.

The literacy and numeracy tests were introduced for pupils in P1, P4, P7 and S3 with the aim of helping teachers judge progress on a child's learning.

The review concluded the first year "has been a success on a number of levels", highlighting positive feedback particularly on the P4, P7 and S3 tests.

Other changes announced for all levels include an improved feedback process for children and teachers and the updating of a website aimed at parents.

Mr Swinney said: "Our review found that children generally rated the assessments as accessible and stimulating, while teachers were pleased with the information provided by the assessments.

"I have listened to the range of feedback and changes this year should further improve the experience for learners and provide extra reassurance to teachers and parents.

"While Primary 1 questions were deemed to be at an appropriate level of difficulty, many will be refreshed so that they provide a more familiar context for children.

"Training and advice for teachers will be improved and children undertaking the assessments will be asked for feedback. Communication with parents is vital and the website information has been updated."

He reiterated the tests were to be delivered "as part of everyday learning and teaching" and were not "high stakes", with no pass or fail and no time limit.

EIS education convener Susan Quinn said: "Our members in schools have expressed a wide range of concerns over SNSAs, ranging from the way in which they have been designed to the impact on the children who are being required to undertake these assessments.

"Many teachers, particularly those in the early stage of primary schools, have reported serious concerns over the stress that is being placed on young children who are undertaking SNSAs.

"The review recommendations published today seem to be doing little to address these concerns."

Lib Dem MSP Tavish Scott branded the review "blatant spin" while Labour's Iain Gray said the tests should be "suspended indefinitely" for Primary 1 pupils.

Tory Liz Smith also called for the tests to be scrapped "without delay" and Green MSP Ross Greer described them as "unnecessary, unwanted and in too many cases downright damaging"