The P1 Practitioner Forum was formed to give Primary 1 teachers a voice in the debate concerning the Scottish National Standardised Assessment (SNSA) for P1, and to generate practical advice to address the well-documented challenges and discussions that arose from SNSA’s first year of implementation. The SNSA consists of assessments in literacy and numeracy.
It has been a pleasure to be part of the Forum. My aim as Independent Chairperson has been to ensure that Forum discussions were grounded in the realities of teaching P1 and informed by the experiences and professional knowledge of expert P1 teachers. The Forum process was one of iterative discussion to identify the practice-focused ‘architecture’ of the problems, and through this, provide concrete advice and pragmatic solutions.
Forum discussions were vibrant, and at times passionate, but always collegial. Assessment discussions inevitably raise interconnected, cross-cutting and complicated issues that benefit from calm professional consideration. As teachers, we wanted to examine the potential for SNSA to improve teaching and learning. We agreed that the SNSA addresses specific Curriculum for Excellence outcomes and that the associated professional development for classroom practitioners, although high quality, was difficult to source and access. We discussed how the SNSA fits with play-based learning approaches; noted evidence that low-scoring children lack experience, not ability; and acknowledged that primary schools in Scotland vary in their capacity to support data-driven discussions. We shared our different understandings of the purpose and design of the SNSA, and agreed ‘standardised’ as meaning that the SNSA addresses a known set of outcomes using standard questions. We talked about myriad challenges of implementing the SNSA in P1, and the solutions that colleagues had developed. The work of the Forum is available on the National Improvement Hub of Education Scotland.
This report outlines recommendations that we believe should be carefully considered by Scottish Government, Education Scotland, local authorities and schools.
I would like to thank all the members of the Forum for their time and commitment, and for their direct engagement and helpful advice. I also thank Strathclyde University for providing the facilities for hosting our discussions and the Scottish Government for the administrative support that was provided.
Professor Sue Ellis
University of Strathclyde