Government accused of contempt over P1 testing

12 May 2019, 06:05 | Updated: 12 May 2019, 06:10

Classroom of children

Controversial national assessments on P1 pupils have been carried out more than 11,500 times since MSPs voted to scrap them.

Holyrood voted by 63 to 61 last September to "halt" the use of assessments on youngsters in the first year of primary, with all opposition parties uniting to defeat the Scottish Government.

But figures released to the Scottish Liberal Democrats show that since then, 5,658 literacy assessments and 5,870 numeracy assessments have been completed - totalling 11,528.

Ministers were unable to say how many children had done both tests between September 20 last year and the recent Easter holiday.

While the vote last year was not binding on the Scottish Government, Liberal Democrats insisted the continued use of national assessments in P1 shows ministers are treating Parliament with "contempt".

Education spokesman Tavish Scott said: "Parliament voted to halt the national testing of four and five-year-old children. But that has been breached 11,528 times already. Tens of thousands more tests will happen over the coming weeks."

While First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has this week warned against "creeping" efforts from Westminster to claw back powers from Holyrood, Mr Scott added: "The First Minister can't pretend to be the protector of the Parliament's powers while at the same time ignoring its unambiguous decision.

"Teachers are clear that these national tests for P1s tell them nothing they do not already know. They are exasperated by what a waste of time they are."

He also insisted a report by Holyrood's Education Committee "confirmed that there was no evidence for the imposition of testing on Scotland's youngest school children".

He demanded: "These national tests need to be scrapped and we need a Government who accept the will of Parliament, not treat it with contempt."

Scottish national standardised assessments (SNSA) were introduced for P1, P4, P7 and S3 pupils in 2017 to help measure the attainment gap in schools.

But some teachers, education unions and all opposition parties are against their use for P1 pupils, with the tests said to have left some youngsters in tears.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The Scottish National Standardised Assessments were specifically designed for the Scottish curriculum and provide teachers with objective, nationally consistent information related to everyday learning.

"We have made clear that assessment has long been an important part of the improvement agenda, and teachers with experience of using the assessments have spoken of how useful they are as one of a range of ways to gauge a pupil's progression.

"It is important to further evaluate how the assessments are working which is why we have commissioned an independent review of P1 assessments to reconsider the evidence."

The outcome of that review will be published in May 2019.