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SNP must address current chaotic testing of primary school pupils

11 Aug 2015

Liz Smith MSP

The Scottish Government needs to address the chaotic system of testing primary school pupils before the attainment gap deepens, the Scottish Conservatives said today.

New figures released under Freedom of Information today show that local authorities have spent more than £3.6 million over the last three years buying in tests from Durham University and other private companies.

Yet, despite the cost, the tests are not giving parents or education experts any consistent benchmarking on pupil performance across Scotland.

It means there is no way of seeing how schools and pupils are performing across Scotland in comparison to one another. 

Nor is performance data shared with other local authority areas or educational professionals.

The lack of consistent data on the progress of pupils in primary and early secondary school has been highlighted by the Scottish Conservatives as a major failing which needs immediate Government action.

It comes after Audit Scotland warned in a recent report that “there is no consistent approach to tracking and monitoring the progress of pupils from P1 to S3”.

It concluded: “There is a lack of information on overall pupil performance at both a local and national level. Current measures focus on attainment of secondary pupils at S4-S6 level. There are no comparable measures of wider achievement, or the performance of pupils in P1-S3 available at both a council and national level.?”

The most recent Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy also warned that “teachers reported they did not regularly use results of commercially published standardised tests or school  based literacy assessments” to evidence pupil achievements.?

The figures reveal there is a strong arthritis demand for testing from schools – with Fife, Midlothian and West Lothian spending the most on tests from private companies.

But the Scottish Conservatives are calling for a nationally agreed standard test to enable performance to be monitored across Scotland.

Scottish Conservative young people spokeswoman Liz Smith said:

 “These figures show that we have a chaotic, patchwork system of testing across Scotland’s primary schools which is undermining the ability of teachers to fully assess the basic skills of their pupils.

 “The fact that local authorities are spending millions of pounds buying in tests from various providers across Britain tells us that many do not have sufficient confidence in the testing system in Scotland.

“At the end of it therefore, we are left without any nationally agreed standard tests which would tell us how schools and their pupils are performing across Scotland.

“The recent performance rates in primary school literacy and numeracy were deeply worrying. They have fallen because there has not been sufficient emphasis on the 3Rs and because the SNP has persistently refused to acknowledge the concern of parents and teachers that the lack of standard tests in primary schools is doing great damage to Scottish education.

“Nicola Sturgeon needs to get a grip and show she’s prepared to act on this.”

Lack of transparency over pupil testing: http://www.scottishconservatives.com/2015/06/scottish-governments-lack-of-transparency-over-pupil-testing/

Nicola Sturgeon told to ‘get on’ with primary pupil tests: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/nicola-sturgeon/11621989/Nicola-Sturgeon-told-to-get-on-with-primary-pupil-tests.html

A link to Audit Scotland’s report on school education from 2014 is here: http://www.audit-scotland.gov.uk/docs/local/2014/nr_140619_school_education.pdf