Willie Rennie mounts bid to scrap national tests for P1 pupils

Willie Rennie is mounting a bid to scrap national testing for P1 pupils in the wake of a Scottish Government "whitewash" review. Picture: PA Wire
Willie Rennie is mounting a bid to scrap national testing for P1 pupils in the wake of a Scottish Government "whitewash" review. Picture: PA Wire
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Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie is mounting a bid to scrap national testing for P1 pupils in the wake of a Scottish Government “whitewash” review.

With the Tories, Labour and Green MSPs also having spoken out about the introduction of standardised national assessments for four and five year olds, Mr Rennie insisted that SNP ministers “can’t escape the parliamentary maths”.

He has now written to Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, Labour’s Richard Leonard and Patrick Harvie of the Scottish Greens, urging them to join with him in a bid to force a vote on the controversial tests “as soon as possible”.

The Liberal Democrat leader said: “The schools are already back and Parliament will follow them this week.

“There is no time to lose and that is why I have today invited the other opposition leaders to agree to use the first available opportunity to scrap national testing for P1 pupils.

“Parliament must put a stop to this shambles.”

READ MORE: LIB DEM LEADER WANTS VOTE TO SCRAP NATIONAL TESTS FOR P1 PUPILS

The demand comes after feedback from teachers claimed some P1 pupils had been left shaking, crying and distressed by “unnecessary and cruel” tests.

That was contained in a 170 pages of feedback submitted to ministers by he Educational Institute of Scotland - with the teaching union describing the contents as “grim reading”.

After a review of the Scottish national standardised assessments (SNSA) was carried out, Education Secretary John Swinney announced changes for the tests for P1 pupil.

Speaking on Tuesday Mr Swinney said he had listened to feedback and had agreed “enhancements” to the assessments in order to “provide extra reassurance”.

But Mr Rennie hit out: “The Scottish Government review of its own national testing policy was unsurprisingly a whitewash.

“Teachers were horrified that ministers dismissed the feedback that they had been bombarded with. They opted to retain the tests for P1s despite overwhelming evidence from across the country that they are a monumental waste of time and resources, counterproductive and useless in assessing a child’s level.”

In his letter to his three fellow opposition party leaders, Mr Rennie said he was looking for their agreement to “use the first available opportunity to scrap national testing for primary one children”.

He told them: “I want an unequivocal parliamentary vote to occur as soon as possible. As you know, the likelihood is that it will require an opposition party to use their debating time to secure this.”

If MSPs voted against national testing for P1 pupils at the end of such a debate, the vote would not be binding on the government, but it would be seen as establishing the position of the Scottish Parliament on the issue.

READ MORE: Scots P1 tests to be overhauled - but not axed

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “Standardised assessments are delivered as part of everyday learning and provide consistent evidence for teachers to identify the next steps in a child’s learning.

“As set out in the User Review Report we published on 28 August there was a range of views on P1 assessments. Standardised assessments provide consistent evidence for teachers to identify the next steps in a child’s learning, which is especially valuable in the early years if we are to continue to close the attainment gap.

“Our review of the first year of operation found that many teachers were pleased with the information provided, while the average Primary 1 assessment took less than an hour in the year.

“Enhancements and improvements this year will provide a better experience for younger pupils and extra reassurance to teachers and parents.”