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Tips for teachers: How to implement the P1 tests

Literacy and numeracy tests for P1s are going ahead, so we look at how schools can do them well – and minimise distress

Tips for teachers: how to implement P1 SNSA literacy and numeracy tests

They have been branded “mad and cruel” by some and the Scottish Parliament voted to halt them last year but despite all of this, the P1 literacy and numeracy tests are going ahead.

Here, we summarise some tips contained in the recently published P1 practitioners’ report to help schools ensure they run smoothly.

  • Practitioners decide when to implement the Scottish National Standardised Assessments (SNSA)

One of the key findings of the P1 practitioner forum was that some classroom teachers had been given “little or no information” about the tests. One thing teachers on the forum welcomed, the report noted, was the knowledge that it was up to them when the tests were sat.

Education secretary John Swinney made it clear last year at the Scottish Learning Festival that teachers should choose what point in the year it was “advantageous and appropriate” to undertake the national tests and that this should be “respected around the country”.

He added: “If we put out guidance that says it should be up to teacher judgement when it is the right time to do this, that’s what should happen.”


Background: Teachers were given ‘little or no’ information on P1 tests

Quick read: Swinney: teachers must decide when tests are sat

Opinion: Testing Scotland’s youngest pupils is ‘mad and cruel’


  • Children are allowed to take a break

Again, this was news to some of those involved in the forum but the way the tests are designed means it is possible to give children a break if necessary. The forum did, however, call for stronger guidance on “when it is appropriate to offer a break” and “perhaps a mechanism to record such interruptions”.

  • Children are allowed to practice

Children can experiment with the practice assessments before they do their tests in order to familiarise themselves with the format. The forum recommended this was done “several days prior to the SNSA” as doing practice assessments before the proper assessment could make the process “rather long”.

One suggestion that came out of the forum was that the practice assessments could be introduced as a free choice activity the week before the tests, allowing children to engage with them individually and with friends during free play. “The children were ready and confident to do the SNSA the following week,” said the report.

  • Use technology that P1s are familiar with

One of the major difficulties identified by teachers in the first year of the literacy and numeracy tests was that, because the tests are online assessments, P1 children lacked the computing skills to be able to drag and drop, swipe or use a mouse. The forum recommended that P1s should sit the test with the same technology used in the normal ICT curriculum so that they were familiar with it.

  • Let the children have some choice over when they do them

Some teachers offered the SNSA as an adult-supported activity during play and children chose when they wanted to do the tests, said the report.

  • Class teachers should be involved

It emerged during the forum that some teachers simply had children “extracted from their class” in order to sit the tests. However, the P1 practitioner forum report suggested teachers who observed their pupils taking the tests highlighted a number of advantages. For instance, they were able to see the strategies their pupils used to answer questions, they could see which children were “swipe happy or guessing at answers”, as well as which children enjoyed challenging questions and which were unsettled by them.

However, the report also acknowledged that, with the tests taking on average 27 minutes (literacy) and 22 minutes (numeracy), this was “not always practical”.

  • If a child becomes distressed, stop the test

The report also recommended that teachers be told explicitly that if a child were to become upset during the tests they had “a professional and moral responsibility to intervene”.

The report said: “Although many educators would find this advice unnecessary, some Forum members feel that, given media stories about this, the instruction should be explicitly stated.”

The P1 Practitioner Forum – chaired by the University of Strathclyde academic Professor Sue Ellis – met on four occasions, with 29 per cent of members being classroom teachers; 29 per cent school management; 29 per cent from organisations allied to schools like Education Scotland, councils or unions; and 3 per cent academics

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