Teachers warn of national testing ‘negative’ impact

Education secretary 'Angela Constance. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Education secretary 'Angela Constance. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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SCOTLAND’S teachers have warned that plans for national testing are “not the answer” to closing the attainment gap in schools.

Instead, critics say that the plans unveiled by Nicola Sturgeon last week will be a “damaging, retrograde” step which could undermine a recent overhaul of the classroom curriculum. It will also “inevitably” see a return to league tables.

“The introduction of these standardised assessments seems to be driven, in part, by a desire on the part of Scottish Government to take control of education nationally,” said EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan.

The issue will be raised when the EIS chief meets education secretary Angela Constance this week. The union had initially welcomed the changes, but they met with an angry backlash from teachers at a weekend meeting.

Mr Flanagan said the union’s Executive has a “long-standing opposition” to national testing”.

He warned this will have a “profoundly negative impact on Scottish education, entrench inequalities in our schools, and reverse the progress made, under Curriculum for Excellence, towards an assessment regime which genuinely supports children’s learning.”

He added; “While the Scottish Government has been very careful to state that its plans would not mean a return to the failed high-stakes testing regime of the past, it is clear that Scotland’s teachers are not convinced.

“The EIS shares the First Minister’s desire to close the attainment gap and reduce the impact of poverty on education, but we are certain that a national system of standardised assessment is not the answer.”

Ms Sturgeon unveiled plans to put in place a framework for national tests for pupils in Primary 3. 4 and 7, as well as in the third year of secondary. She stressed it was not about a return to league tables.

Although most primaries do test youngsters, there is no way of gauging how schools in different areas are doing against each other. Ms Sturgeon believes the change will help drive down the attainment gaps between rich and poor areas of Scotland after recently calling on Scottish voters to “judge her” on tackling the issue.

But Mr Flanagan said it will be “impossible” to guard against the re-emergence of league tables.

“In such a scenario, standardised assessments will compromise and narrow the learning experience of students, as all the international research evidence makes clear, rather than enhance it,” the EIS chief added.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said the National Improvement Framework will consider a “range of existing and new evidence” to show how children’s learning is progressing and how to raise attainment.

“One source of data will be a new standardised assessment, focusing on reading, writing and numeracy.

She added: “As the First Minister set out last week, this is not a return to the national testing of old. The assessments will inform teacher judgment – not replace it – and provide robust and consistent evidence to help teachers judge whether or not a child is achieving the required level of Curriculum for Excellence.”