John Swinney: Primary one testing should be ‘fun and enjoyable’

Education Secretary John Swinney says he will listen to ideas on how to improve education, no matter who suggests them. (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)
Education Secretary John Swinney says he will listen to ideas on how to improve education, no matter who suggests them. (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)
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John Swinney has defended controversial assessments for primary one pupils, claiming the tests should be “fun and enjoyable” experiences rather than stressful.

The education minister said there was clear Scottish Government-issued guidance on the administration of the assessments to ensure they did not cause distress.

Political opposition to the tests, which some teachers have claimed have left five-year-old pupils visibly upset, is growing in Holyrood.

The Liberal Democrats are pressing for a parliamentary vote on the issue unless the assessments are scrapped before parliament returns next month.

But Mr Swinney said in an interview yesterday the tests were designed to benefit pupils’ long-term education.

“All of the guidance that we have issued indicates that it should be undertaken in a relaxed fashion and it should most definitely not be undertaken in anything that resembles a stressful or high stakes testing environment,” he told The Herald.

“The guidance could not be clearer on that point.

“I have seen in my own experience young people being able to undertake activity in the classroom which is comparable to standardised assessments with exactly the same character and style which is in no way stressful and indeed is a fun and enjoyable part of the educational experience and that is what the guidance is designed to ensure is the case.

“If we need to look at the guidance again and reflect on the feedback to make sure the guidance is appropriate for the process then we will do that to guarantee young people have the type of educational experience we want them to have.”

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Mr Swinney continued: “When we took forward standardised assessments we aligned them very closely to the levels of Curriculum for Excellence and to do that properly we need to have an assessment in relation to the early levels in P1.

“That helps us to identify what are the challenges and issues that young people have to overcome in their education and to make sure they get the support they need to enable that to happen.

“I want to have the earliest possible indication of challenges. I don’t want to leave it for years because if we leave it for years it becomes a bigger problem to overcome.”

Nicola Sturgeon introduced the tests for all pupils in P1, P4, P7 and S3 as a response to concerns over falling standards of literacy and numeracy.