Connect's response to the Scottish Government's Scottish National Standardised Assessments User Review: Stop the P1 tests! 

28th August 2018

The Scottish Government's Scottish National Standardised Assessments User Review was published today (28 August 2018). It describes a 'mixed range of feedback'.  We provide a summary of its findings and proposed actions below.

At Connect, we will continue to campaign with our partners to end the Scottish National Standardised Assessments for Primary 1 children. 

Executive Director Eileen Prior says:

'Whether they are called national tests or national assessments, whether the Scottish Government says they are tests or they aren’t,  it’s time to scrap them for Primary 1 children. Much of the content of the Scottish Government's own Review leads to one conclusion - the Scottish Government must listen to teachers, parents and children and recognise that testing Primary 1s to gather national statistics is the wrong thing to do.  The national curriculum states that children in Primary 1 should be learning through play. The P1 test entirely flies in the face of that. We should all focus on putting support in place for children who need it, for as long as they need it. This has nothing to do with the SNSAs. This has to be properly funded. Only then will the attainment gap be reduced.'

Summary of the Scottish National Standardised Assessments User Review 

The findings of the Review with regard to the Primary 1 Scottish National Standardised Assessments (SNSAs) test match those of our own Parents' Voice survey.  Difficulties range from internet connectivity to Primary 1 children struggling with either unfamiliar IT equipment (such as a computer mouse or a tablet) or with questions. There is an implicit admission that for some P1 children, the SNSA was an ordeal this year: 'Questions that have caused undue concern have been replaced by alternative questions that were trialled during year 1'. 

Issues listed in the Review are:

  • the difficulty of the SNSA, particularly for young P1 children
  • technical challenges ie problems accessing IT equipment (and with using it for P1s) and broadband coverage
  • the challenges of supervising groups of children (impact on staff time and workload, with senior pupils and 'adults' being used to support and supervise younger children)
  • a lack of suitable spaces in which to do the test
  • assessments took longer than expected
  • assessments were harder or too unfamiliar than expected (some children became 'frustrated and demotivated')
  • the appropriateness of testing very young children in P1. 

Paradoxically, the actions proposed in the Review include:

  • to make some questions harder for P4s, P7s and S3s
  • to include a feedback opportunity for children
  • to 'replenish a third of the questions' (we're not sure how this will help create a consistent annual picture of Scotland's P1s, P4s, P7s and S3s!)
  • videos and case studies to support teachers in their use of the SNSA to plan next steps
  • updated parental advice.

The Review states that 'similar to other methods of assessment in schools, there is no legal basis for a parent to withdraw their child from the SNSA'. 

The review makes every effort to dress up the national tests as 'formative' (helpful in planning next steps) rather than 'summative' (which the review describes as 'high stakes' testing.) However, this is clearly not how many children (and their families) have experienced or understood the SNSAs. Comments from the EIS teaching union's survey of its members are included in the report - bizarrely, sentences are redacted throughout as 'out of scope'. 

We call on the Scottish Government to scrap the Primary 1 SNSA. It is not in the best interests of individual children; it primarily exists to provide a national benchmark, at the expense of some Primary 1s who are upset and distressed by their experience of the SNSAs. 

More information from the Scottish Government on the Scottish National Standardised Assessments can be found here.