Councils continue to flout government guidance on tests

Just 45 per cent of teachers who used SNSA tests last year said they had influenced learning and teaching, study finds

Scottish National Standardised Assessments: New research reveals teachers' and pupils' attitudes towards the tests

An official report into national assessments in literacy and numeracy shows that councils are continuing to flout government guidance by running their own testing regimes in tandem with the new tests, and by dictating to teachers when the assessments should be sat.

In 2018, Scotland's education secretary, John Swinney, vowed to use “every channel available” to ensure that teachers decided when P1, P4, P7 and S3 pupils sat the Scottish National Standardised Assessments (SNSAs), not councils.

A report published last month talks about councils “moving away from prescribed assessment windows” – but acknowledges that some still “advise on assessment periods”.

It recommends that the government “restate its clear policy position that it is for teachers, in consultation with schools and local authorities, to decide when SNSAs should be presented to learners”.

Background: ‘Teachers must decide when tests are sat’

Related: Scottish rollout of standardised tests ‘almost unique’

Investigation: Councils vow to keep local testing

News: Drop in uptake of controversial P1 tests

The report also identifies the need for the government to will work with local authorities “to help identify barriers to the replacement of previous standardised assessments”.

In 2015, first minister Nicola Sturgeon said SNSAs would “replace the variety of different assessments already used by local authorities”, so there would be no increase in teacher workload. But the report says councils viewed this as a “transition period” and were planning to phase out their own tests “over the next couple of years”.

The report, Scottish National Standardised Assessments User Review 2018-2019, was published last month.

SNSAs: by the numbers

Here are some other key findings:

577,385 – the total number of assessment sat in 2018-19.

16,600 – The most assessments sat in one day in May, the most popular month for sitting the assessments.

24 – The number of minutes, on average, that the P1 assessments lasted for.

10-15% – The increase in the time it took P4, P7 and S3 pupils to sit the reading and numeracy tests last year. The report says this could be due to “an adjustment in the difficulty”.

91% – The proportion of P1 pupils who clicked the happy face following their assessment (5 per cent clicked the sad face).

12% – The proportion of P4s who said the assessment was too hard (68 per cent thought it was “about right”; 19 per cent thought it was “too easy”; 1 per cent did not answer).

12% – The proportion of P7s who disagreed with the statement “I could answer most of the questions” (85 per cent agreed; 3 per cent did not answer).

13% – The proportion of teachers who disagreed with the statement “it is easy to generate reports” (85 per cent agreed).

39% – The proportion of teachers who disagreed with the statement “my experiences of SNSA in this session has been better than last year” (61 per cent agreed).

40% – The proportion of teachers who disagreed with the statement “SNSA is beginning to inform learning and teaching” (45 per cent agreed).

90% – The proportion of practitioners indicating a positive perception of the diagnostic value of the SNSAs after training, rising from just over half before training.

290 – The number of training events planned for this school year, an increase on 258 the previous session.

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