Teacher hits out at ‘vague’ tests for five-year-olds

Tests have been criticised.
Tests have been criticised.
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Standardised testing for five-year-olds have been set up to be “deliberately vague” to support the notion that Scotland’s attainment gap is closing, a primary teacher has claimed.

The claim was made in an email sent by the teacher to the Labour Party which outlines a series of criticisms of the controversial system of tests that primary one pupils have to carry out.

Under the system, five-year-olds have to sit literacy and numeracy tests lasting around 50-minutes. Critics have complained that testing children at such a young age creates undue anxiety and pressure.

The Edinburgh-based teacher, who wishes to remain anonymous, voiced concerns about the system saying in school it had taken 30 hours of teacher time for numeracy and 40 hours for literacy to set the tests for 54 pupils.

According to the teacher, the test questions tended to be “very poorly phrased – often at best they are ambiguous and at worst they are so badly written that they are actually misleading”.

The teacher was also concerned by the outcome of the tests, which have been introduced by the Scottish Government for P1, P4, P7 and S3 pupils amid concern about falling standards and the lack of consistent data across the country. According to the teacher, primary one pupils are categorised as either high, medium or low.

“Having watched the children complete the tests I also have no confidence in the validity of the assessment of any of those three categories,” the teacher said. “Out of our 54 children, not one child came out as low on the numeracy test, even though some of them only gave a handful of correct answers. This assessment does not in any way support or marry up with the detailed understanding that we have developed over the past year of the strengths, challenges and support needs of our children.”

The teacher went on to suggest the tests had been created to support the notion that the attainment gap between rich and poor pupils was closing.

“The only conclusion I can reach having watched this process from beginning to end is that these tests have been set up to give a deliberately vague picture which broadly supports the idea that the attainment gap is closing,” the teacher said.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard raised some of the points made in the teacher’s email at First Minister Questions when he challenged Nicola Sturgeon to scrap the tests for five-year-olds.

Ms Sturgeon defended the regime. She said: “The vast majority of teacher feedback as I understand it has been positive about the depth of the diagnostic information available.”