Nicola Sturgeon to introduce new standardised school assessments

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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NICOLA Sturgeon has set out plans to drive down the “unacceptable gap” between schools in rich and poor areas with the introduction of national tests in primary schools.

But the raw results for tests in reading, writing and numeracy will not be made public, amid concerns from teaching unions that they could mean a return to “crude” league tables and see teachers focussing on simply getting pupils through the exams.

The information will allow us over the next few years to set clear, specific and meaningful milestones on the road to closing the attainment gap

Nicola Sturgeon

The Scottish Government said it will instead publish the percentage of pupils in each school reaching required standards in literacy and numeracy. This will be a judgement made by teachers, taking into account pupils’ test performance.

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The assessments, part of a new National Improvement Framework, were unveiled by the First Minister yesterday and will take place in P1, P4 and P7, as well as the third year of secondary.

The measures will help drive “rapid and significant improvement” to address the gap between rich and poor in Scotland’s classrooms, Ms Sturgeon said.

“The information will allow us over the next few years to set clear, specific and meaningful milestones on the road to closing the attainment gap,” Ms Sturgeon said as she addressed the International Congress on School Effectiveness and Improvement in Glasgow.

“I want to be clear that my personal determination is that we are able to see and demonstrate progress on both excellence and equity by the end of the next parliament.

“And, as a country, I believe that we should all aspire to making substantial progress in completely eliminating the attainment gap within the next decade.”

READ MORE - Attainment gap fears over new and old Higher exams

The data will be used to drive down the current gap in attainment between children from the least and most deprived communities in Scotland.

Ms Sturgeon added: “Nobody can be comfortable living in a country where different levels of wealth create such a ­significant gap in the attainment levels – and therefore the life chances – of so many children. “

Most of Scotland’s 32 local councils conduct some form of assessment to monitor the progress of children, but these are not currently done on a co-ordinated basis to give a picture across Scotland.

Larry Flanagan, head of teaching union the EIS, said last night that he remained “unconvinced” of the need for standardised tests.

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But he added; “The EIS is encouraged that the First Minister has confirmed the central role of teacher professional judgement in assessing pupil progress and the continuation of the CfE assessment framework.

“The litmus test for these new Standardised Assessments will be whether teachers see them as useful in terms of supporting children’s learning or as a bureaucratic imposition; if it is the latter they will be opposed.”

Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said more resources are needed to tackle the attainment gap in schools and pointed to Labour’s proposed Fair Start Funding which targets children from poorer families.

He said: “An SNP government which is slashing the budgets of the local authorities who have to deliver school education cannot be serious about closing the gap.”

However, Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith backed the plans for tests, saying: ”It is about ensuring that there is better quality testing at key stages in a pupil’s school career.”