‘Political point scoring’ claims after Fife Council is first to scrap P1 tests

Pic: TSPL archives
Pic: TSPL archives

SNP councillors have accused colleagues of “political point scoring” after Fife Council voted to stop using the controversial Scottish National Standardised Assessments (SNSA) for P1 pupils.

Fife became the first local authority in Scotland to halt the tests last week, sparking political fall-out.

The decision was taken by the education and children’s services committee  after months of arguing during which time the local authority voted to end the tests, and then performed a U-turn.

Testing of P1 children will still continue, but it is expected that schools will return to an older system of PIPS in the 2019/20 session for P1 pupils.

SNSA will continue for P4, P7 and S3. This means the two testing systems won’t be comparable.

But the fall-out continued at the December meeting of the full council.

Accusing councillors of trying to “score political points” SNP councillor Alistair Suttie said: “Here we are again with this political nonsense. They are trying to make it political and are not concerned about the affect on teachers and children to score political points against the Scottish government.

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“On the flimsiest of evidence, you want to go back to a system that will cost Fife Council more money just to deliver a bloody nose to the Scottish Government.”

Councillor Fay Sinclair, who is also convener of the Education Committee, added: “We have allowed schools to chose which system they want to use. Schools made an arrangement based on what they deemed most appropriate. Why are we telling them which one to use? Because this one is political.

“I can’t get my head around why there is still opposition when head teachers and teachers are saying this is vital tool. We should be trusting them and taking an evidence based approach instead of going by sound bites.”

Conservative councillor Kathleen Leslie, group education spokesperson, supported the motion to scrap the tests, saying: “Approaches to learning have to be flexible. Unfortunately these test are not flexible.

“The tests take part towards the end of the year, when teachers will have used numerous other testing methods, and therefore they form no baseline.

“On the Scottish governments own review, it found that it took 32 minutes for numeracy and 44 minutes for literacy.

“This is another top down policy by the Scottish Government which is deeply flawed and poorly thought out.”

Cllr Richard Watt, Conservative,  added: “I don’t care about the merits of SNSA – we’ve had that discussion. A decision has been made, we do not agree with them. When this council takes a decision, we expect this decision to be respected and upheld.”

But Labour co-leader of the council David Ross, who put forward the successful motion to end P1 testing,  said: “I feel the committee decision shouldn’t be allowed to stand and we should withdraw from the SNSA scheme.

“We agree that the remainder of the pupils this year should receive assessments using whatever methods the schools deem appropriate, but noting that the council will not be using the P1 SNSA testing scheme in the future.”