Teachers brand P1 tests 'a waste of time'

Education secretary says it is 'nonsense' to argue that recent report was not 'a clear recommendation' to continue with assessments
30th August 2019, 1:10pm


Teachers brand P1 tests 'a waste of time'

Teachers Brand P1 Tests 'a Waste Of Time'

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

School staff complained the Scottish National Standardised Assessments (SNSAs), brought in by the Scottish government as part of measures to close the attainment gap, were "inappropriate" for the youngest primary pupils.

The views 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 SNSAs with this age group whose recommendations were published in June. SNSAs are also taken at P4, P7 and S3.

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After the review by literacy expert David Reedy was completed, Mr Swinney confirmed in June that the tests would continue.

The deputy first minister said at the time: "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."

However, with the Scottish Parliament having already voted against the use of the assessments for P1 pupils, Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie said teachers' feedback, published this week, 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.

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

Another headteacher, when asked how P1 children 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 completed anonymously.

Asked about how they used the data from the P1 SNSAs, they said: "I don't. These assessments are a waste of time as they aren't suitable for my level of children, eg 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 judgement."

Another teacher said children 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."

Mr Swinney said last night: "It is nonsense to suggest that this report provided anything other than a clear recommendation that P1 assessments should continue and any suggestion to the contrary is a gross distortion of the truth.

"What is more, research has shown a clear majority of P1 teachers believed the children in their classes had a positive experience overall, with more than 90 per cent of children saying they were happy doing the assessments.

"That is why the review reported there was 'scant evidence' of children becoming upset when taking the P1 SNSA.

"Mr Reedy concluded that P1 assessments had valuable potential, should be continued and made a number of recommendations for improvements which the Scottish government is progressing."

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