Grahame Smith focuses on Scottish Government reform’s of public services in speech to STUC women’s conference
THE GENERAL SECRETARY of the STUC, Grahame Smith, has told the annual national trade union body’s annual women’s conference that the SNP’s new plans to introduce standardised testing will not improve pupil performance.
In a speech focusing on poverty and public services, Smith told the 88th national gathering of women trade unionists in Dundee that the government’s approach to service reform is too centralised and top down, focussing not enough of the struggles of frontline staff.
Speaking about standardised testing, he said: “Testing is not a policy that will improve attainment. The quality of teaching and the teaching environment will improve attainment.
“But politicians seem obsessed with testing because it is something that can be measured. Continually testing children does nothing to alter attainment unless it leads to more effective policy.”
The reintroduction of standardised testing, or national testing, was announced in September 2015 in the Scottish Government’s programme for government for 2015-2016. It is viewed with suspicion by Scottish teachers unions because it is not readily compatible with the curriculum for excellence, and because it detracts focus from other measures for raising attainment such as increasing teacher numbers and shrinking class sizes.
Smith called for smaller class sizes to form the basis of any strategy for increasing attainment: “Teachers know that smaller class sizes with support within larger classes will undoubtedly raise attainment. But what happened to the promise of smaller class sizes and indeed the pledge of class sizes of 18 in p1? Nothing,” he said.
“If pressure on resources means smaller class sizes across the board can’t be delivered in the short term, an excellent first step would be to reduce class sizes in identified areas of deprivation. That could really make a difference in alleviating poverty and would also have a consequent impact on reducing health inequality.
“Politicians might be better investing less time obsessing about targets and measures and invest more trust in the competence and experience of the professionals who do the job,” he added.
Smith also criticised reforms in health, and said that public service reform should focus directly on “alleviating poverty” as the best way to deal with shortcomings in the public sector.
Picture courtesy of Thomas Galvez