Education and Skills Committee report on Standardised Assessments is published

24th April 2019

Connect welcomes the scrutiny the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee has given to Scottish National Standardised Assessments (SNSA). You can read the Committee’s full report here. The Committee’s points include:

  • Implementation of the policy was rushed, before gathering in-depth evidence and consulting widely and meaningfully with stakeholders, and so the policy formation process may have been “compromised”.
  • The assessments are supposed to be low-stakes, however with the Government announcement that education is its top priority at the same time as implementing SNSA, as well as the deliberate decision not to inform parents of SNSAs, this has led to them becoming high-stakes politically.
  • The Government’s decision to replace the Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy (SSLN) with the Achievement of Curriculum for Excellence Levels (ACEL) and SNSAs has meant the loss of important information which was gathered by the SSLN, but is not by ACEL and SNSAs. This has created a data gap of five years or more, making it difficult to hold the Government to account on education or to assess the impact of education reforms.
  • There is confusion over the purpose of SNSAs: are they to gather information about the education system (summative data), or to give teachers information about how their pupils are currently learning, and what stage they are at (formative data)? The SNSAs are being used for both, however this means there is a lack of focus on either purpose, as the SNSAs is doing two different jobs at once.
  • The assessments are carried out online, on computers or tablets. An assessment should have been made of the technological capacity of Scottish schools to carry out the tests, such as suitable internet provision and enough computer hardware available, as some schools have struggled with this.

Assessment is an important and necessary tool available to teachers to inform decisions about teaching, learning, and support, and to inform conversations between teachers, children and families. However, Connect has always been critical of the Government’s decision to introduce Standardised Assessments, as its initial purpose was national data gathering which has the potential to lead to league tables for primary schools. While its stated purpose has shifted to providing formative information on children’s learning (resulting in much confusion as the Committee’s report notes), parents still say they are not being informed on how the assessments are helping their child’s learning, and many teachers say the assessments are not telling them anything they don’t already know.

Connect has been particularly disturbed that the Government did not inform parents of the policy and what it means for their child. Empowerment, collaboration, and partnership working are the education buzzwords of the moment, however we question how these can apply without honest communication.  

We await the Government’s response to the report with interest, along with the results of the independent review into P1 Standardised Assessments due in May.

You can read our written submission to the Committee’s inquiry here, and read the transcript of Connect Convenor Lindsay Law’s evidence session before the Committee on Wednesday 6 February 2019 here.