Primary school assessment in Scotland explained
Announcing the new testing regime, Nicola Sturgeon said that improving the education of children in Scotland was, 'arguably the most important objective' for her government. The intention was that national testing would give a clearer picture of performance in Scottish and primary schools, ultimately helping to drive up attainment and narrow the gap between children in well-off and deprived areas.
Unsurprisingly, the plans to introduce national primary tests in Scotland had a mixed response. Critics said that the result will be that schools focus on preparing for the exams, rather than teaching a broad curriculum, and that the tests will put pressure on children and reignite the obsession with league tables. However, there are also no plans for the Scottish government to publish league tables based on test results, although it's likely that these will be compiled by independent agencies.
Primary school assessment in Scotland until 2017
Literacy and numeracy were tested in alternate years, and individual children's results were not published; the results are simply used to give an overall picture of attainment across the country.
Which pupils take SNSAs?
When and how do the SNSAs take place?
- P1 children take two SNSA assessments: one in literacy and one in numeracy.
- P4 children take three SNSA assessments: one in reading, one in writing and one in numeracy.
- P7 children take three SNSA assessments: one in reading, one in writing and one in numeracy.
- S3 students take three SNSA assessments: one in reading, one in writing and one in numeracy.
The assessments are completed online and are marked automatically. There is no pass mark and the assessments cannot be 'failed'.
Each assessment has between 30 and 41 questions, depending on the year group and subject. The computerised assessment system is adaptive: if a child is finding the questions difficult the questions will get easier, and if a child is doing well, the questions will become more challenging.
The assessments are as short as possible and designed to be completed in around 45 minutes, but there is no time limit.
Do children need to prepare for the SNSA assessments?
How are the results used?
At a local and national level the SNSA data aims to offer a complete and consistent picture of children's academic progress in Scottish schools. School level data will be available to teachers and local authorities; the Scottish Government will have access to national level data only.
SNSA results will not be published in 'league tables'.