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School tests for five-year-olds leave pupils ‘shaking and crying’


PRESSURE is mounting on ministers to scrap “distressing” school tests for five-year-olds before the start of the new term.

The call came after new evidence emerged of P1 pupils “shaking and crying” as they took the new literacy and numeracy assessments – which can last up to 40 minutes.

Teacher feedback to the Scottish Government released under freedom of information legislation has highlighted a raft of other concerns including lack of suitable IT equipment and significant loss of teaching time. Parents have also contacted the government to establish whether they can opt out.

One teacher said: “The fact young children are having to spend hours sat in front of a screen completing these assessments is wrong and goes against all that we know about appropriate learning.

“Trust teachers to observe and assess children in developmentally appropriate ways rather than endless, meaningless assessments in front of a screen.”

One senior school manager said: “My team felt the P1 test was far too difficult, not only in terms of the level of digital literacy required – one pupil actually lifted the mouse in the air like an aeroplane to try and make it work – but also for the way the questions were worded and their level of difficulty.

“We had one child with additional support needs who triggered severe distressed behaviour as he couldn’t be helped to answer the questions and another P1 who just clicked anything.”

A headteacher said: “I feel I have betrayed relationships and harmed them with our children, particularly our most vulnerable, by putting them through these tests.

“They are completely inappropriate and have left even those children who are flying and are ahead of where we would expect, 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.”

Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, who submitted the freedom of information request, called on the tests for five-year-olds to be scrapped.

He said: “Hundreds upon hundreds of complaints now show the chaos ministers inflicted on their classrooms last year, at the expense of tens of thousands of children.

“The feedback from teachers from every corner of Scotland is brutal. Testing P1s was clearly soul destroying and countless teachers report their classes and learning grinding to a halt for weeks.

“Teachers have told ministers of their heartbreak at putting their pupils through something which they can see is harming their progress and causing distress. Making those starting P1 this month do the tests cannot be justified.”

In May, John Swinney, the Education Secretary, said he was “very sensitive” to concerns about P1 assessments and acknowledged the wider debate, but said the assessments were important to judge progress on closing the attainment gap.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Assessment is part of everyday learning and teaching.

“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.”

The spokesman said a review of the first year of the assessments, to be published in August, would set out changes to the system for next year.

He added: “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.”

The feedback comes after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon introduced the assessments for all pupils in P1, P4, P7 and S3 as a response to concerns over falling standards of literacy and numeracy and a lack of consistent data across the country.

There has also been positive feedback on the tests, with one teacher of 17 years’ experience saying: “Pupils … all enjoyed doing them. There was no stress involved as it was not built up into anything high stakes beforehand.

“I love to see them so engaged and trying their best. I also find the information invaluable to my teaching and the pupils’ learning.”

Another said: “Most children found it quite enjoyable. No-one was particularly distressed by it.”


Source : HeraldScotland

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