Parties unite to deal fresh blow to P1 testing plans

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Controversial tests for five-year-olds in Scotland’s schools are facing renewed pressure to be axed with a motion being laid at Holyrood today calling for their removal.

Labour’s education spokesman, Iain Gray, has lodged the one-line motion which is likely to attract support from all opposition parties.

Primary 1 testing has sparked a backlash

Primary 1 testing has sparked a backlash

It now appears to be just a matter of time before a Holyrood vote is held on the issue which the minority SNP Government will almost certainly lose.

The new system of standardised assessments in P1 has already prompted calls for a boycott amid claims that some youngsters have been left in tears and teachers believe them to be a waste of time.

Ministers insist that they provide valuable information about youngsters’ development and such assessments have always been held, albeit not on a national basis.

But Mr Gray insisted today that the tests are a “shambles.” He added: “The SNP’s refusal to listen to the mounting evidence against them is bordering on farcical.

“Labour will continue to work to build cross-party and non-party opposition to these tests. That is why I have lodged a motion at Holyrood this week calling from the tests to be scrapped for primary 1s.”

He added: “Ministers should listen to the sheer number of voices telling them these tests have to go.”

The EIS teaching union, which opposes the P1 tests, has written to opposition parties at Holyrood calling on them to opposing the ban, while the educational charity Upstart has organised a postcard campaign encouraging parents to boycott the tests. Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said he would support such a boycott at the party’s conference at the weekend.

A review of the new Scottish National Standardised Assessments, which were introduced last year and also take place in P4, P7 and S3, has been carried out. Mr Swinney has already pledged changes to the P1 tests. But they will not be axed.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Standardised assessments are delivered as part of everyday learning and provide consistent evidence for teachers to identify the next steps in a child’s learning, which is especially valuable in the early years if we are to continue to close the attainment gap.”

Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Tavish Scott said: “Opposition parties are united in their belief that tests of 4 and 5 year-old-girls and boys in Primary One is utterly ineffectual. A vote to scrap these tests is now just a matter of time.

Tory education spokeswoman Liz Smith added: “John Swinney’s cack-handed approach to this row threatens to undermine the work that is needed to raise standards in primary schools.”