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30th October 2015 at 00:00

The government needs the courage to do a U-turn

This week, the recently formed political party RISE: Scotland’s Left Alliance has released a report which adds significant weight to the opposition growing against the Scottish government’s plans for a system of national standardised testing. It finds that such testing is not supported by international evidence, is incompatible with Curriculum for Excellence and will almost certainly result in a range of damaging unintended consequences such as school league tables and the further entrenchment of educational inequality in Scotland.

With both the EIS teaching union and the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association publicly opposed to the implementation of national standardised testing, and concerns having been raised by teachers, school leaders, parents groups and academics, it is clear that, far from reducing the “attainment gap”, the current plans risk making things much worse for our nation’s poorest children.

Despite the progressive language and good intentions, these proposals are in reality a throwback to the rejected Thatcherite education policies of the 1990s – policies which failed then and will fail now. The generation of standardised data for the purpose of national comparisons may well suit politicians and their advisers but it will not improve the educational experiences of Scotland’s children.

Fortunately, there is still time to think again. The government has already set a precedent by abandoning flawed plans for a women’s super-prison to replace Cornton Vale; it should follow its own example now by having the courage to change course.

The Scottish government should place its trust in the teaching profession and abandon plans for the implementation of a regressive and deeply damaging initiative.

James McEnaney

Author of the report on national standardised testing by RISE: Scotland’s Left Alliance

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