Testing P1 pupils causes ‘tantamount to abuse’, say education campaigners

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Testing primary one children is ‘tantamount to illness, or neglect or abuse’, say a lobby of educationalists in Scotland.

Speaking ahead of the launch next week of the ‘Play not Tests’ campaign, children’s charities and teaching unions are calling on the Scottish Government to withdraw national assessments for P1.

Teachers and parents say many P1 pupils get upset at having to sit tests deemed necessary by the Scottish Govenment.

Teachers and parents say many P1 pupils get upset at having to sit tests deemed necessary by the Scottish Govenment.

P1 pupils sit a literacy and numeracy test, each lasting approximately 50 minutes.

Critics say testing at such a young age creates undue anxiety and pressure.

They maintain this can lead to some pupils being stigmatised and feeling “bottom of the league” and also does not take into account the different speeds at which children get to grips with different subjects.

Sue Palmer, chair of Upstart Scotland, the charity spearheading the campaign, said “teaching to test” would probably mostly improve literacy and numeracy skills for children from high-income families but would not tackle the poverty gap.

“It comes down to what the government wants: do they want us to continue to be stuck in the 19th century doing what Victorian politicians decided was the right thing, so that women could return to work in the factories?,’ said Ms Palmer a former teacher, and author of ‘Toxic Childhood’ and ‘Detoxing Childhood’.

“Or do they want to learn from countries with better educational and child wellbeing outcomes, and give our children the chance to ‘learn with joy’ through an extended kindergarten period from the ages of three to seven?”

The charity says these tests are an ‘adverse childhood experience’, such as illness, neglect or abuse - increasing linked to health and mental health problems in later life.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, (EIS), said P1 baseline testing hampers children’s educational growth.

“The EIS is sceptical about the worth standardised assessments generally, but we’re particularly opposed to their introduction for P1 pupils.”

Feedback from teacher include the language in assessments being inaccessible to early level learners and some children finding the content ‘boring’.

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A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Play is a key aspect within the early years stage of Curriculum for Excellence, and helps inform the development of learning experiences and play-based pedagogy.

“P1 assessments are used by teachers to identify whether children would benefit from additional support to improve their literacy and numeracy skills. They are designed to be age appropriate, there is no pass or fail and teachers have complete flexibility over how and when they are delivered.

“From the feedback we have received it is clear where teachers are using the assessments as part of everyday learning and teaching, children have found them interesting and easy to do. The additional information they provide is extremely valuable for teachers to plan next steps for learning and ensure the right support is in place.”