Controversial national school tests set to cost over £12 million 


Warning over cost to taxpayer of controversial testing scheme 

THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT has launched a bidding process for its new standardised testing policy – which will cost the equivalent of 540 new teachers’ salaries. 

The project to return to national assessments of pupils as young as five in Scottish schools has faced opposition from campaigners, teaching unions, and MSPs in parliament. 

Previously the government was unable to confirm the cost of the plan or who would gain financially from the tendering process. 

Now the government has launched the 36 month tendering bid, costed at £10m (excluding VAT) for a three year period. Including VAT the total cost of the test tendering process comes to £12.4m – over £4m a year, on the basis of the tendering document. 

The proposal has been a point of tension with teachers’ groups, who are considering boycotting the process amid wider disputes over staff workloads. The Educational Institute of Scotland have warned that standardised testing would narrow the curriculum for young children towards a focus on marked examinations. 

“The most expensive exercise in futility,” the SNP on the tendering process for CalMac ferries in 2007.

Teachers will will be expected to assess the literacy and numeracy of children in primary 1, primary 4, primary 7 and the third year of secondary school. The government claims that this extra information is required to improve educational performance, including reducing inequality. 

However, the money spent on the procurement process and resulting contract is controversial.  Private firms, which specialise in testing, will be expected to bid for the £12m contract – meaning public education funds can go to a profit making company.

The SNP previously described tendering, in the case of CalMac ferries, as “the most expensive exercise in futility”. Tendering is often forced to meet a variety of specifications, legal requirements, and internal directives – which spawn bureaucratic and costly forms of publicly subsidised consultancy.

Campaigner, lecturer and former teacher James McEnaney told CommonSpace: “This whole policy has been a farce from the outset and now we know that, far from saving money, a national standardised testing system is going to involve handing over £12m to a private, profit-making company. 

“That's money that could be spent hiring teachers and protecting support staff, both of which would have real benefits for the worst-off and most vulnerable young people in Scotland. The SNP have got their priorities all wrong and are now too stubborn to back down, but the time has come to put pupils before politics and cancel this dreadful policy.”

The Scottish Government continue to support the ethos and costings of the project.

A spokesperson said: “The specification for the National Standardised Assessments has been developed with partners, teachers, parents and academics.  The Scottish Government has been committed to getting this specification right by taking the time to ensure that the system procured will be aligned to Curriculum for Excellence, adaptive to pupil responses and inclusive of all children, whatever their background and ability. Assessments will provide teachers with information to enable them to tailor individual learning plans.”

“The estimate of £10 million applies to the five year lifespan of the contract [excluding VAT] – and is therefore in keeping with the indicative figures included in the Financial Memorandum to the Education (Scotland) Act 2016,” a spokesperson added. 

According to the government, the 36 month time period in the contract is the guaranteed length of contract before a government review can take place – meaning the yearly cost would be lower. 

Previously, CommonSpace revealed that just four emails were submitted as evidence regarding the standardised testing plans, with both education experts who sent in evidence failing to support the policy.

Picture courtesy of Bill Salek

Picture courtesy of alister

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