John Swinney says new tests will not mean extra work for pupils

Swinney says the tests are not high stakes.

Picture: Ian Rutherford

Swinney says the tests are not high stakes. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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Education Secretary John Swinney insists new national tests will not create extra work for teachers or children, as he published more information on the controversial assessments.

He said the tests – being brought in for every child in P1, P4, P7 and S3 from August next year –would not be “high stakes”, with no need for children to revise and no pass or fail.

Mr Swinney confirmed the online system of reading, writing and numeracy assessments would be developed by ACER International UK, part of the not-for-profit Australian Council for Educational Research.

Pupils will sit the assessments online, with questions designed to respond to how well a child is doing, getting easier if a child is struggling or harder if they are doing well.

A maximum time limit of 50 minutes has been set for each test, with the Scottish Government information leaflets stating “we do not expect the majority of children to require the full 50 minutes”.

Assessments will be automatically marked by the online system, giving teachers immediate feedback on a child’s progress, the government said. Individual teachers and schools will also be in charge of deciding when in the school year the tests are sat. Mr Swinney said: “Teachers are best-placed to make judgements about how children are doing in school and draw on a wide range of information from both formal and informal assessments to help them form a view.

“The new national standardised assessments will be designed to be as straightforward as possible for teachers and children alike. These are not high-stakes tests: there will be no ‘pass or fail’ and no additional workload for children or teachers.

“The standardised assessments will be an important tool for teachers, who will have an additional source of nationally consistent evidence about how well pupils are progressing.

“They will be able to draw on this alongside other assessment information to help inform their professional judgement, which is how we evaluate whether children have achieved the relevant Curriculum for Excellence levels for their stage.”

However, opposition parties have raised fears that standardised assessments will lead to a return to school league tables.

Scottish Lib Dem education spokesman Tavish Scott said: “Teaching to the test seems inevitable and it will not help schools and teachers already burdened with bureaucracy, increased class sizes and cuts to education budgets.

“SNP ministers have pressed ahead with this approach despite the pleas of teachers, unions and parents.”