Rennie: No Scot Gov minister stepping up to defend “useless” national testing

After the Scottish Government today insisted national testing helps teachers measure the progress of their children, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said SNP ministers "have their fingers in their ears" because the hundreds of pages worth of feedback they received showed teachers consider the data worthless.

No minister was willing to defend their national tests for five-year-olds today in face of the publication of a barrage of complaints and fierce criticism from those teachers involved in their operation. However, a Scottish Government spokesperson was quoted as saying "standardised assessments provide information to help teachers to check progress in early maths, literacy, development and behaviour, and identify where further support may be required."

Countless comments from teachers disputed the usefulness of the information, stating:

  • “The information is completely useless. Children who are academically poor could and did get high scores just by clicking the correct answers by chance as it was multiple choice”. [East Ayrshire]
  • “As a practitioner who loves nothing more than analysing data and identifying next steps in learning, the SNSA is the most useless piece of assessment data I have ever come across”. [Edinburgh]
  • “My struggling learners with EAL performed much better than my able readers by guessing and so the actual results ended up being a shambles and not a true reflection”. [Aberdeen]
  • “I cannot use the data from these tests to support my teaching in any way. It does not provide reliable information on any aspect of my children's learning or development." [Teacher]
  • “It didn’t provide me without anything I didn't know about learners already”. [Argyll & Bute]
  • "Primary one could not and did not complete these on their own" [Dumfries & Galloway]
  • “The data has been of no use and will not change my professional judgment”. [East Renfrewshire]
  • “Not at all useful, complete waste of everyone's time”. [Edinburgh]
  • "This abstract assessment told me no more about my children than I already knew, in fact in many cases it reflected negatively on their abilities in comparison to what they can do day in day out…" [Glasgow]
  • "tested IT competence rather than academic ability." [Perth & Kinross]
  • "I cannot and will not use these results to determine my work with these children…" [North Lanarkshire]
  • "…assessment merely restated, in the most part, what I already knew, and support for individuals and groups was already in place. In fact, some of that support time was lost due to the excessive length of time it took to complete the assessments and the impact that had on staffing."[ Renfrewshire]
  • "My staff team, with close oversight from me, know exactly where our children are in terms of literacy, numeracy and each aspect of the curriculum…The idea than an online test will give us invaluable insight into their difficulties and allow us to provide the correct support is ludicrous. If this reflection isn't a standard part of a teacher's week then that teacher is failing. The tests do not provide any useful diagnostic information." [Depute Head]

Willie Rennie commented:

“Government ministers have put their fingers in their ears and dodged defending these useless P1 tests. If they believe in this policy why won’t John Swinney or one of his junior ministers put their name to quotes defending it.

“The SNP has persisted with its tired justification that the test results are helpful to teachers and guide learning. But by teachers’ reckoning the information is useless, and the results inaccurate and often the product of luck or guesswork.

“For all the time being thrown at these tests they aren’t doing anything to support children’s learning and the data they churn out is worthless.

“Teachers have voiced sharp criticism of the tests and if education is really the SNP’s priority it needs to listen, admit its error in judgement and reverse the policy so this year’s new intake of learners aren’t put through the same fruitless and distressing task.”

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