Educational Elixar

Iddir's Ideas and thoughts on all things Educational !

National testing is it really the right thing to do ?


test testing


I am deeply perplexed to hear of the recent news that the First Minister announced regarding the reintroduction of National Testing. I find it difficult to understand exactly how this can be achieved under the new curriculum. With 5 levels within Curriculum for Excellence(CfE) that span the early years up into senior phase, I can not see a fair way to test at each level and still deliver a fair representation of said level? with the early stage from nursery up to the end of P1 and First level from P1 to end of P4  how can we take a child from the start of the level and the end of the level and be able to say they are attaining ? Am I just being naive? Am I missing something?

CfE was developed and “sold” as the new curriculum that would be for the learners, be learner centered, be holistic and would develop skills for life, learning and work. During the time between development and implementation of CfE, National Testing was abolished, much to the relief of the workforce. There would be no more “teaching to the test” and most teachers found themselves becoming more autonomous in the way they taught.

However, barely half a decade later it became quite clear that the support for the staff in implementing it was lacking. A report by EIS published in May 2013 showed that :

    • Over half (53.6%) of respondents were either “barely confident” (43.9%) or “not confident at all” (9.7%) in forms of assessment associated with CfE.
    • Almost two-third of respondents (63.7%) described an unhelpful tick-box approach to the measurement of CfE progress.
    • 62.3% of respondents described the current preferred methods of gauging CfE progress as “barely useful” (44.6%) or “not useful at all” (17.7%).
    • More than half (54.8%) of Primary 7 teachers described P7 profiling as “not very useful” in supporting the transition process for pupils about to enter secondary school.
    • Almost half of respondents thought the amount of forward planning in schools was “excessive”. (EIS, 2013)

It is quite clear from these findings that any evidence pertaining to attainment is deeply flawed. How can Nicola Sturgeon say that attainment is lacking when the teachers themselves are not confident that they are actually assessing correctly in terms of CfE?

A full copy of the findings can be found HERE

Several articles surrounding the topic of stress and CfE can be found at the end of this post.

Moving on from the EIS survey there was a government initiative introduced this year:

Scottish Attainment Challenge

This was introduced in February 2015 and “…aims to raise the attainment of children and young people living in deprived areas in order to close the equity gap”. (Education Scotland, no date) Now I may just be being skeptical but…

With The Attainment Challenge came The pledge of a £100m funding initiative spread over four years (2015-2019) with this being targeted for supporting learners in schools with the highest concentrations of deprivation. The fund also focuses on particular improvement in literacy, numeracy and health and well being. The first 7 local authorities to have been identified are :

  • Glasgow City Council
  • Dundee City Council
  • Inverclyde Council
  • West Dunbartonshire Council
  • North Ayrshire Council
  • North Lanarkshire Council
  • Clackmannanshire Council

Now whilst this is all fair and well that we are plowing all these millions into closing the attainment gap and making it about equity not just equality … there is the small matter of why the learners are not attaining ?

In the report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation(2014) about closing the gap in attainment  it states that “The gap between children from low-income and high-income households starts early” and straight away I am hit with the underlying cause of low attainment … the dreaded money factor… I am not implying that low income is the ONLY factor but merely stating that many reports and research conclude that it is one of the biggest factors.

This month saw the launch of the Schools Programme which ties in with the attainment challenge and How good is our School(4) So we can see that much is being done to try and bridge the gap in attainment and support all involved. Why then do we need to introduce testing? can we not wait and see where this initiative will take us? Can we wait to see if the gap will decrease? Is it enough ?

Is it perhaps the pressure from elsewhere that is leading our first minister to reintroduce the National Tests and if so who and why ?

I realise I have likely posed more questions than answers in this post but I can not help feeling that it will be a step backwards if or when the national testing is reintroduced, back to teachers losing autonomy and teaching to the test and quite possibly the results only serving to highlight the gaps in attainment across Scotland which will benefit who ?

What we have to remember is that Scotland has it’s own unique curriculum… A very young curriculum that is not without its flaws. We need to give it and the teachers a chance to see if it is all it is geared up to be.

A final thought …

How can we compare to the rest of the world when the rest of the world is so very different.

Below is a list of articles relating to teachers stress levels caused by CfE in order from 2012 onwards



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