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Greater clarity needed over use of standardised assessments, say MSPs

The Committee indicated that there must be greater clarity over the use of SNSAs Photo: Ben Birchall/PA

The Scottish Government must provide greater clarity over the purpose of standardised assessments in schools, MSPs have indicated.

Holyrood’s Education and Skills Committee has been considering evidence from stakeholders over the use of Scottish National Standardised Assessments (SNSAs), which are completed by children online.

The assessments are taken by students in state primary schools in primary one, primary four, primary seven and in secondary three.

In its report published on Tuesday, the committee raised concerns over differing views they had heard on the use of SNSAs.

MSPs highlighted that there appeared to be inconsistencies between stakeholders regarding their understanding of how and why SNSAs are used.

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The committee notes in its findings that the word “confusion” was often used during evidence sessions.

The Scottish Government has been asked by the Committee to give clearer guidance on the role of the assessments and urged them to reassure parents, pupils and teachers that the SNSAs are not “high stakes”.

Committee Convener, Clare Adamson MSP said: “There has been a lot of media and political attention regarding the introduction of SNSA and our Committee agreed to undertake an inquiry on the evidence base for their introduction as well as exploring why the decision was taken to move away from the Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy.

“We also wanted to explore international comparisons to understand similar and differing approaches used elsewhere.

“We heard differing evidence from stakeholders as to their understanding of the purpose and reason for introduction and have asked the Government to clarify their intended use in Scottish Education.”

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A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We will consider the recommendations in full and respond in due course.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Tavish Scott suggested the committee’s report could pave the way for SNSAs to be scrapped.

“This report shows that there was no evidence for the imposition of testing in Scotland’s youngest school children,” said Mr Scott.

“The assessments were poorly thought through and badly implemented. This all-party report paves the way for primary tests to be scrapped altogether.

“The Scottish Government should have used teacher experience to inform their education policy to begin with. Instead, ministers created policies to match their speeches.

“The effect of their policy was an afterthought to that most dangerous political approach – the need to be seen to be doing something.

“The least the government can do at this point is listen to teachers and scrap these assessments.”