Standardised testing is insult to teachers and will cause anxiety
By Jim Halfpenny of the EIS
Despite the claims of the SNP Government that standardised testing in Primary 1 helps schools quickly identify weaknesses and challenges the overwhelming reaction of Primary school teachers in West Dunbartonshire and throughout Scotland is that these tests serve little purpose while causing anxiety, confusion and stress among children and parents.
To suggest that this ‘test’ can ‘quickly’ improve a teachers understanding of a child’s ability is nonsense.
Teachers are assessing pupils on a day to day basis and their knowledge of each child will not be improved by this manufactured test. For John Swinney, pictured right, to suggest otherwise is insulting to the experience and professionalism of teachers.
Teachers in West Dunbartonshire continually assess the progress, strengths and weaknesses of pupils in a variety of formal and informal situations. They use this continual assessment to plan for, support and challenge all of the pupils in their classes. The recent implementation of the Scottish National Standardised Assessment was not only extremely time consuming and disruptive to the learning of pupils but the results of these tests failed to show anything that they did not already know through their own assessments.
Balloch primary schools’ campus, two of the schools where these tests are planned to be introduced. Picture by Bill Heaney
The content of the assessments at P1 level and the way in which the children were asked to complete them was not tailored appropriately to their age and stage. Many questions in both the Literacy and Numeracy assessments were not linked to the benchmarks set by the Scottish Government but were far beyond the level that children are expected to achieve by the end of Early Level – which should be achieved by most children by the time they finish Primary 1.
Many studies suggest that tasks for 5 year olds should be kept between 10 – 15 minutes long, and these tests often took 45 – 60 minutes to implement.
To accommodate these tests, teaching staff and members of the Management Team were taken from their usual remits which then meant supply cover. This had to be paid for by the school budget.
Many children became unsettled due to the variety of people covering their classes while their teachers spent days delivering the assessments.
At this very young age many children become anxious during the test and are visibly upset that they do not know all of the answers. For teachers, this is distressing to watch. The Scottish Government states that it wants our pupils to become “Confident Individuals” but this process clearly harms the confidence of many of these children.
To their credit, West Dunbartonshire Education Department has encouraged schools to implement a more play based approach to learning across Primary 1 and beyond and many feel that the SNSAs in their current format are not compatible with this approach.
The EIS feels that learning experience and assessment in Primary 1 is best acquired through structured play. To this end, these ‘tests’ should be scrapped.