Flagship legislation that could usher in an era of high-stakes testing in Scotland has been passed by the country’s Parliament.
Education secretary Angela Constance hailed the reforms as a “significant milestone for education”.
The Education (Scotland) Bill, which was unanimously agreed at Holyrood, places a duty on local authorities and ministers to prioritise measures to reduce the educational divide between young people from different backgrounds.
It also legislates for the introduction of a National Improvement Framework in Scotland’s schools, which will bring in national assessments for pupils in literacy and numeracy at primary and secondary level.
Campaigners at the charity Children in Scotland have insisted that testing children in the first year of primary school is “simply not appropriate for their age”, while Liberal Democrat education spokesman Liam McArthur called on ministers to ditch the plans.
He raised fears that standardised testing would inevitably lead to school league tables, and said: “I would urge the government to heed the calls of teaching unions, teachers and parents to drop plans for national standardised testing in primary schools.”
However, Save the Children welcomed the new law, including the plans for testing.
Neil Mathers, charity’s head of Scotland said: “We want to see the National Improvement Framework working to make sure that every child is supported to read well by the time they finish primary school. Save the Children believes that the attainment gap can’t close without first ensuring this happens.”
The bill includes measures to promote Gaelic education and ensure all teachers – including those in the private sector – are suitably qualified by compelling them to register with the General Teaching Council for Scotland. It will also guarantee a 25-hour teaching week in primary and ensure every council has a chief education officer among its senior managers.