Suspend school assessments and reboot standards, Labour demands

10 August 2018, 06:38

school classroom

Education Secretary John Swinney is being urged to suspend standard testing in Scotland's schools.

Labour said the tests, which youngsters undergo in P1 P4, P7 and S3, are an attempt by the Scottish Government at "fabricating its own credibility" on educational attainment.

Education spokesman Iain Gray urged ministers to halt the use of tests following feedback from teachers earlier this month that P1 pupils had been left shaking, crying and distressed by the "unnecessary and cruel" assessments.

That is part of a five-point plan Labour has produced, which it says would "reboot standards in Scottish schools".

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) teaching union has already submitted more than 170 pages of comments from its members to ministers on the testing regime, describing the contents as "grim reading".

The Scottish National Standardised Assessments were brought in by the SNP as part of efforts to close the attainment gap in schools - which First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has insisted is her top priority.

But Labour argued it would be more useful for Scotland to take part in international education surveys.

Mr Gray called on ministers to re-enter the country into both the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) - something the Government said had helped by "greatly reducing the burden of national survey participation on schools".

The Labour MSP said: "Scotland's schools should be the best in the world, but that means facing the rest of the world when measuring the performance of our schools.

"The SNP is attempting to remove an internationally recognised standard of educational attainment, this is an inward-looking step and could have a detrimental effect on how we perform as a country.

"The SNP should drop this decision and suspend their standardised assessments which have left pupils in tears.

"The Government should reintroduce a new Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy, and renew participation in PIRLS and TIMSS.

"After 11 years in Government the SNP are manufacturing their own accountability, picking and choosing measures of attainment.

"The education of our young people is clearly not the 'top priority' the First Minister claimed. Instead, her Government is focused on fabricating its own credibility."

Mr Swinney however insisted Labour's approach would "do nothing to meet the educational needs" of youngsters.

The Education Secretary said: "Assessments are not a new concept and the vast majority of local authorities have been carrying them out for years. The Scottish National Standardised Assessments ensure for the first time that all schools will undertake the same assessments, providing consistency and an important means for teachers to identify children's next steps in learning.

"That is especially valuable in early years if we are to continue to close the attainment gap."

He said the tests had been developed "after extensive engagement with teachers, parents, children and academics" and added that "teachers have the flexibility to manage the assessments to ensure that they are a positive experience for all children".

Mr Swinney went on: "Our review of the first year of assessments listened to the experience of teachers and children. We will shortly set out changes and enhancements to the system for next year.

"The Labour Party's proposals would do nothing to meet the educational needs of individual young people. That is the focus of the Scottish Government's approach."