John Swinney told to ‘listen’ and scrap P1 tests

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has hailed the Scottish Government's "world-leading examples of progressive policies", as his party gears up for its autumn conference. Picture: John Devlin
Deputy First Minister John Swinney has hailed the Scottish Government's "world-leading examples of progressive policies", as his party gears up for its autumn conference. Picture: John Devlin
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Education secretary John Swinney has been urged to “listen and learn” by scrapping controversial primary one testing ahead of a crucial vote on the issue.

With the Scottish Government facing potential defeat in the Scottish Parliament today, opposition politicians have called on Mr Swinney to admit he was wrong to introduce the tests.

The Conservatives have submitted a motion calling for the tests for four and five-year-olds to be halted.

The call came after MSPs attended a demonstration of the tests organised by the Scottish Government as ministers defended the controversial assessments.

Politicians were given sample questions of the tests, which would see primary one pupils answer 30 literacy- based questions in 22 minutes and 30 numeracy questions in 27 minutes. Officials involved with creating the tests said it would be up to teachers when pupils sat the tests and whether they would sit them all at the same time. Although they admitted that “in theory” the information could be used to draw up league tables, they emphasised the system was designed to be focused on individual pupils with the aim of providing better information for teachers.

Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens oppose the tests. The Conservatives, who have no objection to assessments for older pupils, have come up with a motion that calls for them to be halted in primary one. A defeat for the Scottish Government at parliament today would mark the second time that one of Mr Swinney’s key education reforms has struggled to secure parliamentary support.

Mr Swinney has already shelved his Education Bill, which had at it’s heart his flagship plans to hand control over schools to headteachers. Mr Swinney has said he would reflect on the outcome of today’s debate, but he also did not rule out defying the will of the Parliament by pointing out the vote was not binding because it was not a legislative one. Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith called on Mr Swinney to listen to objections to primary one tests from teachers and pupils.

She said: “The Scottish Conservatives have been making our concerns heard about the primary one testing regime from the last two years. It is there on the record. We have listened and learned. Today’s debate is a chance for the SNP to do the same.”