Scottish Government 'following in footsteps of Margaret Thatcher' in defence of standardised assessments, claims Willie Rennie

Education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville has been accused of being “persuaded by the logic of Margaret Thatcher” in the Scottish Government’s defence of standardised assessments.

Liberal Democrat education spokesman Willie Rennie said national assessments were originally introduced by the former prime minister’s Conservative government in the 1980s and warned the tests result in “crude league tables” being drawn up to rank Scotland’s schools.

The recent OECD report into Scotland’s education system recommended that testing only a sample of children for literacy and numeracy could be a better way of determining pupil achievement than the existing testing system.

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Standardised tests were introduced by the Scottish Government in 2017, as part of efforts to close the attainment gap, with youngsters being tested in primary one, four, seven and in S3 in secondary school.

Scottish Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville.Scottish Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville.
Scottish Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville.

Speaking in the Holyrood chamber, Mr Rennie said: “National assessments were initially introduced by Margaret Thatcher's government before they were scrapped by the Liberal Democrat-Labour government here because they resulted in crude league tables.

“The recent OECD report criticised the use of the Scottish Government’s assessments for national monitoring purposes – and now we have crude league tables once again. Why is the Cabinet secretary more more persuaded by the logic of Margaret Thatcher than the OECD?

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Ms Somerville said: “The purpose of the national standardised assessment is primarily informative. The OECD made no recommendation about standardised assessments, but did recognise that they are a valuable tool to support teachers’ judgements.”

She added: "The Scottish Government does not collect – and therefore does not publish – the standardised assessment.”

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