Glasgow to set own tests

City council says Scottish Survey of Achievement fails to provide valid information

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Scotland's largest education authority is planning to set up its own testing scheme to replace national 5-14 tests which, Glasgow City Council says, do not match the principles of A Curriculum for Excellence.

The city's head of education services also argues that the Scottish Survey of Achievement, which checks attainment in P3, P5, P7 and S2, does not provide sufficient or useful information at either local authority or national level.

Maureen McKenna told The TESS that the SSA model "lacks accountability". An SSA report on English produced "generalised statements" on numeracy goals on the basis of a small sample of questions.

The council is now in talks with academics at Glasgow University over plans to create its own diagnostic testing system for individual pupils. Although it has used the NFER Nelson standardised testing model in some schools, it could not afford the pound;80,000 price tag of using the literacy and numeracy tests at P3, P6 and S2 stages in every Glasgow school.

The 5-14 tests had provided helpful milestones that parents and children now recognised, Ms McKenna said. However, as 5-14 assessment was a "threshold" system, it did not tell councils enough about those children who failed to meet a particular level or those children who were exceeding their level. "We need something a bit more sophisticated," she said.

Louise Hayward, a senior lecturer in Glasgow University's department of education studies, who is involved in the project, said the 5-14 national assessment regime had been designed to either confirm or challenge teachers' professional judgment, but it had not been used as such. "For instance, national assessments only cover a small proportion of what it means to be a reader, so they are not going to give useful information back," she said.

"The assessment Glasgow wants is diagnostic in the sense of looking to see what children are doing, where the problems lie, if there are problems, and what might be done to support children individually."

Larry Flanagan, education convener of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said he would be very unhappy at the idea of "blanket testing" pupils, but formative assessment based on the principles of Assessment is for Learning was important.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said the SSA provided an important national snapshot of learning, but it recognised that local authorities and schools had a legitimate need to evaluate how their pupils were progressing in their learning relative to others.

Through its concordat with local government, the Scottish Government was already working with councils, including Glasgow, on sharing and developing new approaches to assessment, she added.

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