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National Testing (Five-year-olds)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 19th September 2019.

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Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

4. It is one year since Parliament voted to scrap national tests for five-year-olds. Since then, the Scottish Government has ordered tests for another 50,000 primary 1 pupils. Why has the First Minister allowed that in the face of the clear vote by Scotland’s Parliament?

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

After that vote, the Deputy First Minister set out the action that we were taking to respond to it. An independent review of primary 1 assessments was carried out. That report was published. We set out our response to it—the changes that we were going to make—and that is the right and proper way to have proceeded. T he assessments that we have in place in our schools are proportionate and right. They did not, of course, introduce assessment for the first time. All local authorities previously carried out assessments; some did so more than once a year. That is part of the process of making sure that we have information that allows us to determine whether our education system is delivering for the young people it serves, and we will continue to take that action because that is what we owe young people across the country.

Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

When Boris Johnson tramples over parliamentary democracy, the First Minister is outraged; when her education secretary does exactly the same, she pats him on the back. It is not just Parliament; teachers are being snubbed, too. In 400 pages of fresh criticism, teachers said that the tests were “a logistical nightmare”, caused a lot of stress to pupils and were “a waste of time”. That is on top of the criticism of the tests by the Government’s own advisers. Experts are against the tests, teachers have spoken out against the tests and Parliament voted against the tests. I know that John Swinney is not having a good day, but will the First Minister finally listen and tell him that he has to scrap the tests?

The First Minister:

Parliament asked us to look at the evidence, which is what we did. We established the David Reedy review— he conducted a comprehensive independent review, which involved speaking to many stakeholders and inviting written feedback from many. He spent considerable time in schools talking to teachers and children and he watched children undertake the assessments. It is absolute nonsense to suggest that David Reedy’s report provided anything other than a clear recommendation that primary 1 assessments should continue. Research has shown that a majority of primary 1 teachers believe that the children in their classes had a positive experience overall. The review reported that there was “scant evidence” of children becoming upset in the way that Willie Rennie and others had suggested.

We have taken action to ensure that changes that were required are being made. We will continue to take action to ensure that teachers have information about the performance of children so that they can help those who need extra help and make sure that children are performing at the levels that they should be. That is the right way to proceed, and we will continue with it.