Controversial P1 tests carried out 11,500 times despite MSPs’ vote to scrap them

Controversial national assessments on P1 pupils have been carried out more than 11,500 times across Scotland since MSPs voted to scrap them.

Education Secretary John Swinney reads to pupils in Edinburgh. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA
Education Secretary John Swinney reads to pupils in Edinburgh. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA

Holyrood voted by 63 to 61 in September last year to “halt” the use of assessments on youngsters in the first year of primary – championed by Education Secretary John Swinney – with all opposition parties uniting to defeat the Scottish Government.

But figures released to the Scottish Liberal Democrats show since then, 5,658 literacy assessments and 5,870 numeracy assessments have been completed, totalling 11,528 tests.

Ministers were unable to say how many children had done both tests between 20 September last year and the recent Easter holiday.

While the vote last year was not binding on the Scottish Government, Liberal Democrats insisted the continued use of national assessments in P1 showed ministers were treating parliament with “contempt”.

Education spokesman Tavish Scott said: “Parliament voted to halt the national testing of four and five-year-old children, but that has been breached 11,528 times already. Tens of thousands more tests will happen over the coming weeks.”

While First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has this week warned against “creeping” efforts from Westminster to claw back powers from Holyrood, Scott said: “The First Minister can’t pretend to be the protector of the parliament’s powers while at the same time ignoring its unambiguous decision.

“Teachers are clear that these national tests for P1s tell them nothing they do not already know. They are exasperated by what a waste of time they are.”

He also insisted a report by Holyrood’s education committee “confirmed that there was no evidence for the imposition of testing on Scotland’s youngest school children”. Scottish national standardised assessments (SNSA) were introduced for P1, P4, P7 and S3 pupils in 2017 to help measure the attainment gap in schools.

But some teachers, education unions and all opposition parties are against their use for P1 pupils, with the tests said to have left some youngsters in tears.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have made clear that assessment has long been an important part of the improvement agenda and teachers with experience of using the assessments have spoken of how useful they are as one of a range of ways to gauge a pupil’s progression. “It is important to further evaluate how the assessments are working, which is why we have commissioned an independent review of P1 assessments to reconsider the evidence.” The outcome of that review is due to be published this month.