Connect's parent survey findings on national testing of Primary 1 children

13th August 2018

Connect’s Snap Survey of Parents on the Primary 1 Scottish National Standardised Assessment (June 2018)

In June 2018, Connect ran a snap survey of parent views on the Scottish National Standardised Assessment (SNSA) of Primary 1 pupils through our social media channels. 2017/18 was the first year of full implementation of the P1 SNSA. We wanted to understand

  • how much parents knew about the P1 SNSA
  • when P1 children were undertaking the SNSA*
  • what children and parents’ experiences were of the P1 SNSA
  • whether the information gathered from the SNSA was shared in any way with children and parents
  • whether parents knew that they could opt their child out of the SNSA.

We also surveyed teachers and head teachers to seek their views and will publish our detailed findings soon.

*The SNSA is meant to be taken by children when they are ready, not when it is convenient for the school and not for the purpose of creating ability groups.

Quantitative Findings

Overall, the 364 responses to our survey told us that parents knew very little about the SNSA, either at the time their children sat it or afterwards.

  • 70% of parents didn’t know about their child taking the SNSA in advance
  • 96% of children did not talk to their parents about the SNSA in advance
  • 75% of children did not talk about the SNSA after they took it
  • 94% of parents did not have any information arising from the SNSA shared with them, eg to plan next steps in learning
  • 92% of parents were not told they could opt their child out
  • 52% of parents could not say when the SNSA took place. Of the parents who knew when the test took place, 5% said between August and December, 12% said between January and April and 31% said from May to the end of the year
  • when asked about how they felt the school handled the P1 SNSA, 7% said it was well-handled, 30% said it was handled well but they would have liked more information, 34% felt it was not handled well, 28% were not sure.

Qualitative Findings

We asked parents for their views of the P1 SNSA. Nearly 60% of respondents expressed a negative or very negative view of them; nearly 8% expressed a positive opinion; 40% were concerned about a lack of communication about them.

Of the negative views, typical comments included:

‘I don’t think it’s fair to test children at such an early stage of their school career, when they are still very much settling in and finding their feet’, ‘children at P1 shouldn’t be tested as they are too young. What’s the point?’ and ‘P1s should not be subjected to stressful difficult tests’.

Parents were upset about the lack of information provided by the school:

‘I have spoken to several parents, including the Parent Council, and no-one knew about the testing’ and ‘I have had no information about this at all’.

Respondents were also upset that they hadn’t been given information about the SNSA findings:

‘I would have liked to have known about this test and to be given the results, so I can be part of how my son develops and give him support where it is needed’.

When parents were given information about the SNSA, this was given:

  • in children’s annual school reports
  • verbally at parents’ evenings/meetings
  • in school newsletters
  • at Parent Council/PTA meetings
  • at information evenings.

There were considerable differences in the approaches schools used to explain the SNSA to children.  Some children were told it was a game on the computer/ipad, some were told they were having a test. The children’s experiences as described to their parents highlight the challenges of finding suitable child-friendly ways to conduct the SNSA:

‘They had to go to the head teacher’s office to answer some questions’, ‘someone came into school and listened to him reading’, ‘they missed their lesson as they had to go to the Deputy Head Teacher’s office with a different teacher to do a task’, ‘he said he was taken to a room by someone he didn’t know and asked questions’ and ‘they were doing games in the head teacher’s office’.

Children’s personal reactions to the SNSA varied. They ranged from:

‘I love tests’, ‘it was fun and I enjoyed doing it’ and ‘she was neither up nor down and had no idea she was being assessed’ to ‘it made my daughter feel sick and want to cry’, ‘he was crying because the head teacher made him go on the computer and he doesn’t know how to use a computer’ and ‘she couldn’t do it. The teacher said it didn’t matter but she is clearly worried about it’.

Eileen Prior, Executive Director of Connect, said:

'Our survey of parents about the P1 Scottish National Standardised Assessments (SNSAs) clearly shows us that parents are not being kept informed about SNSAs.

‘Assessment cannot be about national data gathering on a cycle to suit local authorities and Government, which puts pressure on everyone - but that appears to be the reality we have.  It should be about children's learning and their next steps:  the conversation with children and parents about next steps is imperative so goals are clear and families can be involved.  It is well-evidenced that children do better when their families understand and can take part in their child's learning.

‘We are very concerned about the ways in which SNSAs are being implemented in some schools.  Technology does not seem to be available for children to take the assessment in their own classrooms as a matter of course.  Some parents report in the survey that this has been upsetting and confusing for their child.

’Not only are the tests for P1s flying in the face of Curriculum for Excellence principles, they are simply not appropriate. Research shows that children at this age should be learning through play. The SNSA tests continue the formalisation of the early level curriculum to the detriment of many. This was a view regularly expressed by teachers and head teachers who responded to another survey amongst professionals carried out on behalf of Connect.