The Cabinet Secretary’s statement to parliament this afternoon gave no more reassurance to EIS members than his statements last week on publication of the User Review of the first year of implementation.

Commenting on the announcement, EIS Assistant Secretary Andrea Bradley said, “While the EIS supports the view expressed by the Cabinet Secretary that assessment should support learning and that teacher judgement should be central to assessment policy, the statement given in Parliament today wholly ignores the large body of evidence provided by the EIS that teachers were afforded little to no professional judgement in determining the timing of SNSAs for the children in their classes.

Recent survey findings revealed that in at least 25 local authorities, assessment windows were set which involved children sitting assessments en masse on single days, or within a set period of time, during the school session. For these children, assessment was not an integral part of everyday learning and teaching and was not timed to support their individual learning. This was out of the hands of teachers.”

Ms Bradley continued, “The statement provided by the Cabinet Secretary today also gives far too much weight to the role of SNSAs in determining teacher judgement of children’s achievement of CfE levels. These assessments are a very small part of a much bigger assessment picture, estimated by Scottish Government to amount to only a tenth of the assessment information that teachers will gather on children’s’ progress in Literacy and Numeracy.

The writing assessment, for example, by its very design can assess only spelling, punctuation and grammar- a fraction of the number of skills that children are required and encouraged to develop in their writing. To suggest that they carry greater weight than the 10% that they do is to ascribe SNSAs a level of status that takes them into ‘high-stakes’ territory.”

Ms Bradley added, “The Cabinet Secretary in his statement also seemed to call into question the validity of the evidence gathered by the EIS survey. 460 teachers responded to the survey within only a fortnight- a busy two-week period at the beginning of June. We could have delved deeper, but the comments provided in that short time amounted to more than two hundred pages of text, more than 170 of these negative.

The evidence base from which the Scottish Government’s conclusions have been drawn is informed by far fewer teachers than 460. It is difficult to reconcile the importance that the Cabinet Secretary appears to attribute to the role of teacher judgement in assessment with his apparent dismissal of the majority of those 460 voices which found SNSAs to be deeply problematic, especially for P1. The evidence strongly refutes that the P1 assessments are in keeping with the play-based pedagogy that should be the cornerstone of Early Level learning and teaching.

On the issue of parents’ right to withdraw their children from SNSAs, Ms Bradley stated, “Today’s statement seemed wrongly suggestive that they form part of local authorities’ legal duty to provide education. At the same time, the statement pointed to what can only be described as legal limbo for parents and schools: while SNSAs are not compulsory, parents have no legal right to insist that their children do not sit them. The EIS is clear on its position, however, that it supports the absolute right of parents to withdraw their children from SNSAs.”