Union leader questions teachers ‘wasting time’ on Scottish tests

A union leader has questioned the Scottish pupil assessments, saying they give no insight into performance. Picture: David Davies/PA Wire
A union leader has questioned the Scottish pupil assessments, saying they give no insight into performance. Picture: David Davies/PA Wire
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A union representative has questioned why teachers have to “waste time” on carrying out controversial tests, claiming they give no extra insight into pupil performance.

EIS education convener Susan Quinn said the assessments were a “lazy” way to measure what happens in the education system.

She warned they would not diagnose additional support needs such as autism or dyslexia.

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Ms Quinn spoke at the inquiry by MSPs on Holyrood’s education committee into Scottish National Standardised Assessments (SNSAs), which measure the progress of children in P1, P4, P7 and S3.

She said: “In the first year of using them, even where people say ‘aye, they’re OK’, they tell us ‘it has told me nothing much more than I already knew about the young people in my class’.

“So if they are telling you nothing much more than you already knew, why waste time doing them?

“Why not use your time to teach the kids? Because if you are assessing, you’re not teaching.”

She added: “If this information isn’t giving added value to the system that is already in place, then it is not worth doing.”

Ms Quinn said in meetings the Government held with interested parties before introducing the assessments there was no suggestion new tests were needed.

She said in some schools, teachers and assistants paid for from Pupil Equity Funding – cash for closing the attainment gap – were being “redirected” from projects focusing on this to administer the tests.

All four people giving evidence to the committee agreed the purpose was confused about whether they should be summative, in that they ensure teacher judgment is reliable, or formative, giving teachers information about each pupil.

Ms Quinn stressed the SNSAs would not diagnose any additional support needs, with schools and health boards using a range of other assessments for this.

Education lecturer James McEnaney said any suggestion SNSAs could diagnose such conditions was “incredibly dangerous”, but he believed it was not intentional from the Government.

Deputy convener of the committee Johann Lamont said: “I couldn’t be absolutely certain, but my sense is there has been an argument made back to those who have got concerns about the testing. Surely you don’t want to be in the position that a child with autism’s needs are not identified?”

Mr McEnaney replied: “I would regard that as being very irresponsible.”

The committee also heard from Lindsay Law, convener of the parent body Connect, who said there was confusion over the diagnostic nature of the tests, with some parents believing they would diagnose dyslexia.

She said the purpose “isn’t clear”.

Ms Law said: “There’s a continued focus on numbers rather than individuals as children and that is driven by a national government obsession with being able to say that Scotland is leading the world in X, Y or Z.

“Parents don’t care about Scotland leading the world, parents care about their child’s education.”