Controversial tests for P1 children in Scotland are to be overhauled to make the questions more "familiar" to youngsters - but will not be axed
A Scottish Government review into the new system of standardised assessments in P1, P4, P7 and S3 has set out changes to the regime introduced last year, Education Secretary John Swinney has confirmed.
But it prompted and angry reaction from the country’s biggest teaching union which rejected the review’s claims of benefits of the regime to pupils’ development.
Read more: Teaching union backs calls for boycott of P1 tests
A campaign has already been launched to end the assessments for the youngest pupils, amid claims some have been left in tears and teachers find them a waste of time.
Mr Swinney today issued an open letter to P1 parents in Scotland defending the assessment regime, insisting it will help give youngsters “the best start in life.”
The changes will see training and advice for teachers improved and children undertaking the Primary one assessments will be asked for feedback.
"Our review found that children generally rated the assessments as accessible and stimulating, while teachers were pleased with the information provided by the assessments," Mr Swinney said today.
"I have listened to the range of feedback and changes this year should further improve the experience for learners and provide extra reassurance to teachers and parents.
"While Primary 1 questions were deemed to be at an appropriate level of difficulty, many will be refreshed so that they provide a more familiar context for children. Training and advice for teachers will be improved and children undertaking the assessments will be asked for feedback. Communication with parents is vital and the website information has been updated.
"The assessments should be delivered as part of everyday learning and teaching. These are not 'high stakes' assessments - there is no pass or fail and there is no time limit. The average time taken to complete a Primary 1 assessment is less than an hour and that is a very short amount of time to give teachers information to help plan a child's progress to the next steps in learning."
Across all the assessments, a third of the questions have been changed.
Children will be asked to rate their experience at the end of each assessment.
Teachers will be able to provide feedback at any time and there will be an annual, random survey of teachers.
But Susan Quinn, Education Convener of the EIS teaching union said it still has “serious concerns” over the assessments.
“It is surprising to note from the Scottish Government statement today that children have apparently found the assessments ‘accessible and stimulating’ and that teachers were ‘very pleased’ with the information provided by SNSAs,” Ms Quinn said.
“These findings run contrary to the vast majority of experiences reported by teachers across Scotland in the recent EIS survey, the findings of which were shared with the Scottish Government. The EIS will be interested to see the evidence base for the Scottish Government’s interpretation of SNSA feedback from pupils and teachers.”
She added that the changes to the testing regime set out by Swinney will “do little to allay the very serious concerns” of teachers.
In open letter to parents, Mr Swinney sought to play down concerns among parents, as campaigners step up calls to boycott the tests.
“Like you and everyone at your school, I want your child to get the best start in life and every help they might need to achieve their full potential,” Mr Swinney stated.
“I am a parent myself and I want to ensure that my son’s teachers have all the information they need to help him learn and progress.”
But Liberal Democrat education spokesman Tavish Scott stepped up calls for the tests to be axed.
“These tests for P1 children have been shown up as time-consuming, confusing and of limited value,” he said.
“The SNP are carrying on regardless. We say they should stop the P1 tests. We want a vote at Holyrood to force ministers to see the sense in halting them.”
Tory education spokeswoman Liz Smith added: “The Scottish Conservatives have never been in favour of formal standardised national tests in Primary 1 and were the first to argue against their introduction.
“These tests for five-year-olds do not produce meaningful results - a point which is backed up by the vast majority of educationalists and teachers in early years education.
“John Swinney should listen to the teaching profession and scrap them without delay.”