Standardised tests defended despite OECD criticism

Urgent question lodged in Parliament after government's apparent dismissal of OECD concerns over standardised testing

Tes Reporter

SNSA controversy: Scottish National Standardised Assessments have been defended despite OECD criticism

The controversial Scottish National Standardised Assessments (SNSAs) for primary pupils have been defended by the education secretary, despite criticism of the tests in a recent report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

That stance has led to an urgent question being lodged in the Scottish Parliament today over concerns that the Scottish government will only accept explicit OECD recommendations, not what it deems OECD "commentary"  such as that on the SNSAs.

Announcing the new programme for government this afternoon, first minister Nicola Sturgeon said the recommendations of the OECD review had been accepted.

And earlier today, a report by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice), stated that "the government has accepted all of the headline recommendations" of the OECD review.

However, the Spice report added: "This is an important distinction as the Scottish government has not, it appears, accepted all of the commentary under each headline recommendation."


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As an example, the Spice report cited a response from education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville to the issue of standardised assessment after it was raised by Ross Greer, the education spokesperson for the Scottish Greens  whose party recently agreed a deal to become part of the Scottish government.

Controversy over Scottish National Standardised Assessments

As quoted in the Spice report, she said: “What Ross Greer said in his question about Scottish National Standardised Assessments was not a specific recommendation in the OECD’s report. Assessment was mentioned and I am aware that the issue was mentioned in [a] webinar yesterday, but national standardised assessments are a key element of our improvement agenda as part of the national improvement framework. They allow us to have consistent, objective and comparable information. Ross Greer will be well aware of the independent review that took place in 2019, which concluded that assessments have a valuable potential and should be continued, albeit with some important changes that we will take forward.”

This morning, Scottish Labour education spokesperson Michael Marra tweeted that he had lodged an urgent question in the Scottish Parliament as a result of the Spice report showing that the government had "not accepted the commentary of the OECD review".

Education commentator James McEnaney tweeted that the issue presented "an early test" for the Greens in government.

He said that the SNSAs were "only ever about politics and need to go" and that the Greens would have "no excuse" for defending them after Mr Greer's campaigning against the standardised tests.

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Tes Reporter

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