Only two academics wrote to Swinney and Sturgeon on P1 testing, both to approve and one looking for a job



We’ve heard that ‘all the evidence is against P1 testing’ yet only two academics bothered to write to the Education Secretary or to the First Minister. They were not at all critical:

Academic 1:

I wish you well in persuading your colleagues in the Scottish Parliament that your policy is responsible, progressive and necessary. Ask them to imagine a health service without diagnostic assessment. Why then should we embark on the most critical learning years of a child’s life without a description of the communicative abilities the child brings to school?

Academic 2:

I am writing about the Scottish National Standardized Assessment, and more generally about how the Scottish Government manages assessment processes and results. This is not a letter of complaint, but an offer of assistance.

So, three parents, only one critical, and now only two academics, neither critical. Could the opposition to the P1 testing be a product, only of a media/trades union campaign?




3 thoughts on “Only two academics wrote to Swinney and Sturgeon on P1 testing, both to approve and one looking for a job

  1. Alasdair Macdonald February 25, 2019 / 3:16 pm

    The P1 testing ‘crisis’ is entirely a media/teacher union creation. The main reservation about testing was that the results of the tests would be used for other purposes, for which the tests were not designed, i. e. to blame and thereby control teachers and schools.

    This began in the late 1980s early 1990s, following the teacher strikes of the previous decade. Unlike the miners, railway workers and other big industrial unions which the governments of the 1980s destroyed, the teacher unions actually won their strikes (insofar as such things can be won) and, indeed, increased their membership. The Tories were also keen to end the comprehensive system and to reintroduce selection. They had a range of strategies such as ‘The Parents’Charter’, ‘Failing Schools’, more rigorous (i.e. fault finding) inspections, ‘opting out’, etc. New Labour substantially retained much of that, although, to be fair,they invested hugely in education and spent a lot on early years, which was wholly admirable.

    ‘Testing’ brought about the infamous ‘league tables’ and from them the identification of ‘failing schools’, and, by implication ‘poor teaching’. Thus, teachers were put on the defensive, worried about being blamed and became less likely to take risks and to be creative and innovative.

    Although the tests were presented as being ‘diagnostic’, the media quickly converted them into league tables and failing schools.

    Fortunately, in Scotland, we were spared the worst of this. Opting out never took root, local authorities remained in charge, most people send their children to the local primaries, our secondaries are comprehensives. Nevertheless, we were not unaffected, particularly in more affluent areas, although, in my experience, the more affluent areas often contained the most articulate and committed supporters of public education.

    One of the main ways in which schools were affected adversely was by what the teacher unions, with some justification, call the ‘workload issue’. This is not the workload associated with the teaching of classes and the engagement with children, which is the most satisfying aspect but also emotionally demanding, but the workload assorted with ‘accountability’ – things like development planning, plans of work, reviews of work done, targets, etc.
    In themselves, these things are to be commended, but within proportion. They became ends in themselves and as such became instrumentsof control for those outside of school to make teachers comply. They were not goin to let teachers exercise their power as they had done in the 1970s/80s.

    Many of the test/assessment items which have been constructed are very high quality, with ambiguities removed, and provide good measures of what children have actually achieved and indications of what needs to be changed.

    Now, the Tories, to some extent believe in competitive testing (at least for other people’s children)., because they believe the ‘spur of competition’ can be motivating and result in innovation. This is a view held fairly widely and by no means just by Tories, but, again, with caveats about their own children.

    The hypocrisy of ‘Ruth Davidson’s Conservative and Unionist Party’ on this is not unexpected. They are FOR more tegular testing and their manifesto was explicit on this. Yet, because they saw an opportunity to gain an advantage against the SG, they joined the wholly oppositionist Labour Party and Willie Wombat’s – we will oppose testing until the SNP gives up its pledge for independence’ LibDems. Sadly, the Greens joined them and, although I have long voted Green on the list and in Council elections, some of their ‘touchy-feely’ supporters subscribe to the stress argument.

    With the aid of a compliant media and teacher unions, they were able to make a fuss. The data you have produced shows how much of a media creation this crisis was, when a total of nine people, a majority supportive, have taken the time to write to the SG.

    Liked by 1 person

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