Nicola Sturgeon apologises to ‘misrepresented’ academics

First minister says it was not intention to indicate that two leading academics supported controversial tests

Tes Reporter

Nicola Sturgeon apologises to ‘misrepresented’ academics

Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has apologised to two leading academics who were “misrepresented” over controversial national tests.

Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish government did not intend to give the impression that they supported the Scottish National Standardised Assessments (SNSAs).

The two academics were included in a response from government officials who had been asked to identify experts who supported the SNSAs.

However, Dylan Wiliam, emeritus professor at University College London, said the inclusion of his name was a “substantial and perverse misrepresentation” of his views.

Professor W James Popham, from the University of California, said his work should not be interpreted as support for SNSAs, particularly of 5-year-olds – the P1 SNSAs have been the most controversial of all in recent times.

He added: “Whether made from ignorance or malevolence, the attribution quotation is flat-out incorrect.”

Ms Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament: “In terms of the professors, their work was cited as we believed their work was evidence of support for formative assessment.

“If we got that wrong then of course we apologise to the professors for that. We do not say they specifically supported the Scottish National Standardised Assessments.

“I believe the assessments are important because it is important to have something which allows teachers to moderate their own judgements.”

Ms Sturgeon responded when Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie grilled her during First Minister’s Questions yesterday.

He said: “Teachers are against the tests, councils are ditching the tests, Parliament voted against the tests and now the minister’s preferred experts think the tests are useless.”

Ms Sturgeon introduced the SNSAs in response to concerns over literacy and numeracy standards and a lack of consistent assessment data in Scotland.

However, a grassroots campaign gathered considerable momentum in 2018 amid fears that the assessments are too stressful for the youngest pupils and do not provide useful feedback.

An independent inquiry into P1 SNSAs was ordered by education secretary John Swinney in October after the government lost a vote in Parliament.

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