Scotland’s teachers cautious over new standardised tests

Written by: Sam Phipps | Published:

Scotland’s biggest teaching union has welcomed a government assurance that new standardised testing will not eclipse teachers’ judgement of how pupils are progressing.

Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, has laid out plans to help close the “unacceptable gap” between schools in richer and poorer areas. National tests in P1, P4, P7 and the third year of secondary form a key part of this National Improvement Framework.

However, instead of publishing the full results for the literacy and numeracy tests – which unions said was likely to bring back “crude” league tables and teaching to the test – the Scottish government will reveal the percentage of pupils in each school meeting the required standards. Teachers will make this judgement, taking into account the test performance.

Larry Flanagan, head of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), said he was still unconvinced of the need for standardised tests.

However, he added: “The EIS is encouraged that the first minister has confirmed the central role of teacher professional judgement in assessing pupil progress and the continuation of the Curriculum for Excellence assessment framework.

“The litmus test for these new standardised assessments will be whether teachers see them as useful in terms of supporting children’s learning or as a bureaucratic imposition. If it is the latter they will be opposed.”

Ms Sturgeon told the International Congress on School Effectiveness and Improvement in Glasgow: “The information will allow us over the next few years to set clear, specific and meaningful milestones on the road to closing the attainment gap.

“I want to be clear that my personal determination is that we are able to see and demonstrate progress on both excellence and equity by the end of the next Parliament.”

Scotland should aspire to making “substantial progress” in completely eliminating the attainment gap within the next decade, she added.

Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said the SNP’s proposals were at odds with its squeeze on resources. He cited his own party’s Fair Start Funding plan, which targets children from poorer families.

“An SNP government which is slashing the budgets of the local authorities that have to deliver school education cannot be serious about closing the gap,” Mr Gray said.

However, Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith supported the tests, saying: “It is about ensuring that there is better quality testing at key stages in a pupil’s school career.”


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