Tories call for end to P1 testing at Edinburgh schools

Picture: Dave Thompson/PA Wire
Picture: Dave Thompson/PA Wire
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SCHOOL bosses in Edinburgh will be urged to hold an investigation into stopping controversial assessments of five-year-old school pupils.

Conservatives will put forward a motion at next week’s full council meeting, calling for officers to look into options for “the suspension of testing”.

The Scottish National Standardised Assessments (SNSAs) take place for P1, P4, P7 and S3 pupils. Education authorities in Aberdeen and East Lothian have publicly spoken out against the P1 assessments – and now councillors in the Capital could follow suit.

The move follows a vote in the Scottish Parliament last month which called for the P1 assessments to be stopped – but education secretary John Swinney said scrapping the tests would be “irresponsible”.

Teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), has welcomed the motion, but called for the issue to be depoliticised.

An EIS spokeswoman said: “EIS members have raised particular issues over the use of this type of standardised assessment in primary one, when pupils are at a very early stage of their formal education.

“We support the scrapping of P1 assessments and believe that all assessment must be appropriate to the age and stage of pupils and must genuinely support their learning. It is essential, therefore, that where P1 SNSAs are ended, that councils do not replace them with other forms of standardised testing.”

Conservative education spokesman, Cllr Callum Laidlaw, has called for cross-party support for the motion.

He said: “The only way to achieve a way forward with this is at full council where we can look for a consensus, otherwise we will end up with some sort of fudge rather than giving parents and teachers some clarity.

“I’m not against standardised testing but I think at the P1 level, it’s something that has been proven, to an extent, to be detrimental.

“We are already seeing cracks in the Labour-SNP coalition. Labour have been very strong against the proposals in parliament – so it will be interesting to see whether their councillors wish to support any moves by the coalition.”

The calls to scrap the assessments has been supported by Liberal Democrat councillors.

Cllr Louise Young said: “As a parent myself of a child starting primary school next year, I don’t believe this is what five-year-olds should have to experience. It is a huge year of change starting school and I don’t believe this is the way to assess children’s abilities.

“There is widespread support to scrap P1 testing across the political divide following huge numbers of problems and complaints. Its overwhelmingly opposed by both teachers and parents.

“I hope the Labour education convenor, Cllr Ian Perry, will reflect the views of his own party in the Scottish Parliament and support the end of testing of our five-year olds.”

A council spokesman said: “Assessment approaches are integral to our planning and teaching, and we have included standardised assessments in Primary 1 for many years.

“Our staff use a variety of approaches to encourage and empower learners to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding, skills, attributes and capabilities in different contexts across the curriculum. At key milestones, we need to make use of assessment evidence, and standardised assessments represent just one tool in the wide range of evidence gathered by teachers to inform their professional judgement about pupils’ progress.”

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