Are school league tables on the way in Scotland?

Government’s national testing plans are ‘dangerous’, critics warn

Emma Seith

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Scottish government plans to collect national data on the percentage of children reaching expected levels in reading, writing and numeracy brings the possibility of school league tables much closer, it has been warned.

Teachers and primary school leaders said the proposed design of the National Improvement Framework would make the compilation of school-by-school tables more likely.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of Scotland’s largest teaching union the EIS, told TESS that the Scottish government was “not sufficiently aware of the dangers of the system” it was planning to introduce.

“With the National Improvement Framework, Scotland is heading towards a data-driven education system where you start looking at targets, talking about failing schools and take a league-table approach; where schools and councils are castigated for failing to meet their targets just on the basis of a percentage figure and with no analysis of the challenges faced in that area or the circumstances of a school,” he said.

Primary school leaders, meanwhile, said they would resist any move by the government to collect data that could be turned into league tables.

Greg Dempster, general secretary of primary school leaders’ body AHDS, said: “Any system introduced by the Scottish government needs to focus on individual learners and next steps for their learning – that’s why it’s called the National Improvement Framework, not the National Measurement Framework.

“Any design should guard against the creation of league tables which oversimplify the task of education and provide a focus that is not helpful for moving education on.”

The plans are contained in the government’s draft National Improvement Framework, published last week. This confirms that national tests in literacy and numeracy will be introduced for children in P1, P4, P7 and S3 from 2017. It also states that the government plans to collect information from councils about the proportion of children in those years achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and numeracy. The figures will be published for the first time in December “based on the  limited data available” with national figures published in 2016.

The EIS told TESS it would consider industrial action if the new assessment regime added to teachers’ workloads. But for the time being the union wanted to “maintain a dialogue to influence direction of travel rather than getting into a stand-off”, Mr Flanagan said.

The Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) has already threatened to strike over the plans.

To read this story in full , get the 11 September edition of TESS on your tablet or phone, or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS


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Emma Seith

Emma Seith

Emma Seith is a reporter for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Emma_Seith

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