Fife Council votes to continue primary one testing

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Fife councillors have agreed to continue using the Scottish Government’s primary one testing scheme – one month after voting to stop them.

At the full council meeting in October, councillors agreed a motion which considered no longer using Scottish National Standardised Assessments (SNSA) and instructed senior executive officers to come back with a paper on how that could be achieved.

But this week, councillors backed a motion by Councillor Fay Sinclair, SNP for Dunfermline South, convener of the education committee, to continue to use the controversial tests until a national review by the Scottish Government had been conducted.

The language and numeracy assessments are meant to help teachers understand any issues a young pupil may be having.

In the report, teachers in Fife said the insights they had gained were much more in depth than anything they had previously and had proved a useful part of the teaching tool.

Cllr Sinclair said: “Given what we’ve heard, and the ongoing national review, we should look to contribute to that by continued participation in SNSA and to bring a paper back following its completion to allow members to take an informed decision.”

Councillors opposed to the report submitted a motion that would have seen the assessments stopped immediately and an alternative method, such as returning to PIP, which was used previously.

Fife Council would also be responsible for funding any alternative testing, whereas SNAS is funded by Holyrood.

The amendment came from Cllr Helen Law, Labour for Dunfermline North.

She said: : “We shouldn’t be defending the indefensible. Everyone we’ve spoken to has said they don’t agree with this way forward. In particular, we recommend to the government that all primary one teachers can be consulted anonymously.”

Cllr Kathleen Leslie added: “We have to be listening to what teachers and parents are saying. While the review is running, I don’t think it’s appropriate to continue with testing while that goes on.”

But councillors were told that the PIPS system relied on two tests to calculate attainment, one taken within a month of beginning primary school.

Jacqueline Price, education manager, told the committee that while it wouldn’t be impossible to do this, it would place an unfair burden on teachers who would need to get assessments done as soon as possible.

She added: “Children have already been exposed to 15 weeks of high quality teaching. Any assessment would not be accurate at this point.”

But she stressed: “This is just one part of assessments teachers use. They know their children very well and know how they learn.”

The motion was passed nine votes to eight.

Emma Oneill , Local Democracy Reporting Service