P1 tests being described as 'waste of time'

29 August 2019, 15:03


Controversial national tests on P1 pupils have been described as "meaningless" and a "waste of time" by teachers.

School staff complained the assessments, brought in by the Scottish Government as part of measures to close the attainment gap, were "inappropriate" for the four and five-year-olds.

The opinions were revealed in the results of a survey on P1 testing, which was part of an independent review commissioned by Education Secretary John Swinney into the use of Scottish National Standardised Assessments (SNSA) on this age group.

After the review carried out by literacy expert David Reedy was completed, Mr Swinney confirmed the tests would continue.

Speaking in June, the Deputy First Minister said: "I do not suggest this review has delivered an unqualified green light to the Scottish Government in terms of P1 assessments.

"Clearly the review makes important recommendations about improvements."

But with Holyrood having already voted against the use of the assessments for P1 pupils, Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie said teachers' feedback had "shredded any last pretence that this is a policy which has the support of education professionals".

He said: "There are no long-term educational benefits to the SNP's approach, just a stubborn Education Secretary who refuses to admit that he is wrong."

The assessments were introduced by the Scottish Government in 2017, with youngsters also being tested in P4, P7 and S3.

One head teacher reported some of the P1 children "became quite stressed by the tests despite reassurance" - although they added other pupils had taken the assessment "in their stride".

Another head teacher, when asked how P1 youngsters responded to the assessments, said: "Some children became quite stressed.

"Some became upset because they didn't know how to answer the questions as format unfamiliar."

One teacher branded the tests "useless" in the survey, which was completely anonymous.

Asked about how they used the data from the P1 SNSA, they said: "I don't. These assessments are a waste of time as they aren't suitable for my level of children, e.g. the reading sections are too advanced which means they can't read the passages."

They added: "I do not see any advantage of the SNSAs. It takes up a lot of teaching time to provide data that is not used by the class teacher."

Another teacher complained the assessments were "very time-consuming" as it was best for them to be carried out on a one-to-one basis.

"The ICT skills needed to participate in assessment were difficult for some children," they said.

"Some children struggled to focus. I found the amount of assessment in P1 last year very demanding and pressurised.

"I did not enjoy being out of class for long periods of time and felt my time was being used to complete assessments that had already been done.

"I don't think the SNSA assessment added much to my professional judgment."

Another teacher said youngsters had been "bored" during the assessments, adding: "This is not the way they learn on a daily basis, sitting in front of a machine ticking boxes.

"We often hear them say: 'When will I be finished? Can I go and play now?'"

They argued teachers' time "could, and should, be used much more productively".

The same teacher stated: "I don't personally rate this method of assessment- it's time-consuming, gathers little information that a good class teacher wouldn't already have, doesn't address the problem of trying to reduce the gap for our less advantaged pupils, uses technology that many P1 pupils can't confidently use independently."