I am sitting at my desk listening to the statement from Nicola Sturgeon regarding education and am shaking my head in utter bewilderment. Let me say from the outset that I have been fairly vocal in my support of the SNP and the way in which it has sought to make Scotland a better place in which to live. So I precede this response by saying that I have no doubt that the First Minister’s heart is in the right place. I admire her, her policies and her straightforwardness. However, I do not know whether this idea is hers or whether she is being advised by others, but the announcement of standardised National Tests at Primaries 1, 4 and 7 and in S3 is an absolute disaster for the progress of Scottish Education.
As soon as you introduce a National Framework of Testing you encourage comparison. Indeed, the First Minister wants the data so that she can make comparisons. Comparisons between schools, between local areas and between local authorities. The result will be percentages with winners and losers. Local authorities who fare badly will then heap pressure on schools to improve their results. Heads will heap pressure on their teachers and teachers will start to teach to the test. It is all very well to say that information will not be converted into crude league tables but that will be the result, whether by members of the media or by political parties wishing to make politically-motivated points.
Have we really learned nothing about attainment and how it can be improved? We need inspiring and engaging teachers, the promotion of high levels of self-motivation, alleviating the issues of low income in those areas stifled by poverty, engendering an holistic education, creating welcoming school environments and encouraging strong, autonomous leadership.
Curriculum for Excellence is all about trying to create a learning environment that does not focus on tests because testing does not improve standards. It never has, it never will.
As an educator with a passion for learning and a desire to see students engage with their learning and being fulfilled by it, this announcement has come as a very bitter blow indeed.