The Scottish government has revealed that it is advising schools to share the results of the new national tests in literacy and numeracy with parents.
Government officials said they did not dictate to schools how they should report back to parents but that the results of the national tests – sat for the first time in 2017-18 – were “part of the evidence schools have” and they should provide that to parents along with other information about how their child is progressing.
David Leng, the official in charge of the tests, said: “We don’t specify how schools report to parents, but we are suggesting this is information we have and it should be fed back.”
However, Mr Leng – whose official title is Scottish National Standardised Assessments (SNSA) product owner – warned that if schools were to provide national assessment results alone that would give a misleading picture, because they focused on a “small sample of ability”.
Parental rights in relation to the new tests have proven to be a thorny issue for the government in the recent past. Last month it was accused of misleading families over whether or not they had the right to withdraw their children from the tests, which are carried out in P1, P4, P7 and S3.
'Scrap national tests for P1s'
The advice schools are getting from the government about sharing the data generated by the tests emerged during sessions held today for journalists and MSPs in a bid to demystify the assessments, which have increasingly come under fire, particularly the P1 literacy test.
The sessions – described as “desperate stunts” by Labour – allowed participants to take the tests for themselves and came ahead of a vote in the Scottish Parliament tomorrow about whether the P1 assessments should be halted – a vote that the government is expected to lose.
Mr Leng, a former local authority education director, said this morning that he felt the biggest misconception about the tests was that they were high stakes with a focus on individual children and schools. But, in fact, the purpose of the tests was to provide good quality information to teachers so they were confident in their own professional judgements.
He said he had spoken to teachers who had found the assessments to be “helpful” and “a positive thing”.
It was this professional judgment data that would be collected at a national level, not the raw data from the tests, the officials stressed.
However, it was revealed during the sessions that the government will next month receive a national report on how pupils have performed in the tests.
It was stressed, though, that this report would contain no information about how individual schools or local authorities had performed and would only highlight national trends, such as how well Scottish pupils understand fractions.
The officials admitted, however, that league tables could be compiled if the test results were gathered from individual local authorities.
Commenting on the demonstrations of standardised assessments to MSPs, Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said the SNP’s testing policy had been “completely discredited”. Parents did not trust the tests and teacher found them useless, he added.
“The idea that civil servants performing the tests to MSPs is in any way equivalent to the pressure felt by a four-year-old sitting them is utter nonsense," said Mr Gray.
“Instead of showing humility and admitting he got it wrong, the education secretary [John Swinney] has again pressed on with a failing policy.
“The Scottish Parliament has the opportunity to vote to scrap these tests for P1 children. If the SNP government were to ignore such a vote, it would simply underline how out of touch ministers are on education.”
However, Mr Swinney said he had arranged the drop-in demonstration for MSPs because many of his “most vocal colleagues” had never seen the standardised assessments in practice.
He said: “Throughout the first year of standardised assessments we have listened carefully to experiences and feedback and introduced a range of changes and improvements as a result. The Scottish government will continue to listen to any constructive comments or suggestions about the assessments or how they are delivered.”