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P1 standardised testing criticised by teachers and parents

The EIS union described feedback from its members on the assessments as ‘grim reading’.

Primary one pupils have been left shaking, crying and distressed by “unnecessary and cruel” national testing, according to feedback from teachers.

Scottish national standardised assessments (SNSA) were introduced across four age groups to help measure the attainment gap in schools.

However, dozens of staff working across the country have contacted the Scottish Government directly to outline a catalogue of serious concerns about P1 tests and urge ministers to ditch them.

Parents have also criticised the tests, with many seeking information from civil servants on how to opt their child out.

Teaching union Educational Institute of Scotland has also submitted more than 170 pages of comments from its members to ministers, describing the contents as “grim reading”.

The feedback was published by the Scottish Government in response to Freedom of Information requests from the Liberal Democrats.

The party’s leader Willie Rennie said the “sheer volume of complaints and horror stories obliterate the SNP government’s claims that their national tests are in the best interest of five-year-olds and are age-appropriate”.

The Scottish Government said a review of the first year of the assessments is under way and will be published in August.

The review will set out changes and enhancements to the system for next year and will be published in August.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has previously defended the tests, stating they are an important part of assessing how pupils are performing in literacy and numeracy, while Education Secretary John Swinney said he had “not been inundated” with requests for change.

However, the feedback shows many teachers do not believe the tests provide useful data, with the assessments described by some as “absolutely useless”, a “complete waste of everyone’s time” and “wholly unreliable”.

Teachers also raised concerns over the resources and time allocated to carry out the tests, which are completed using a computer programme.

In many cases staff spent weeks completing the assessments while several schools called in learning support teachers to help administer them.

One child has soiled themselves due to the extreme distress caused by the test Unnamed teacher

“This is a massive use of staff resources that could be put into supporting children instead of performing tests that are not useful,” one teacher wrote.

The content of the tests was also heavily criticised, with staff describing them as “completely inappropriate” and of “absolutely no relevance to the curriculum”.

The impact on pupils was of particular concern, with the depute head of one primary school stating that even the most advanced pupils were left “upset and worried”.

“Less common, but still far more frequent than is at all acceptable are children who display extreme signs of distress, shaking and crying.

“Where this happens we stop the test but by then the damage is already done.

“One child has soiled themselves due to the extreme distress caused by the test.”

One teacher said “the stress of making children answer a question that they can’t understand is unnecessary and cruel” while another said the tests “completely contradict” efforts to promote good mental health.

One mother said she was “absolutely disgusted by the way in which these tests have been dressed up in the guise of the ‘child’s best interest’”.

“As a government you are robbing this generation of their childhood,” she said.

Mr Rennie said: “The feedback from teachers from every corner of Scotland is brutal.

“There is no salvaging this policy and if it continues it will be because ministers are more interested in saving face than they are in giving children the best start to their schooling.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Standardised assessments provide information to help teachers to check progress in early maths, literacy, development and behaviour, and identify where further support may be required.

“We are currently conducting a user review of the first year of the assessments, which includes listening to the experience of teachers. The review will set out changes and enhancements to the system for next year and will be published in August.

“We will continue to listen to the views of teachers and take the action necessary to improve standards in our schools and to close the attainment gap.”

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