Letters: Scottish Government must listen to parents and dump standardised testing for P1

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THE Scottish Government’s decision to subject Primary 1 pupils to standardised testing when they return to school later this month (“Parent leaders hit out at plan to put P1s through school testing”, The , February 5) has rightly been condemned by parents’ organisations. The irony here is that the Scottish Government’s spokesperson’s justification for this decision is that “we do not want inequality to widen”.

All we have to do is to look to our Nordic neighbours, notably Finland, where five-year-olds are not even in primary schools until the age of six or more. Not only that, but they are not tested either. Why? Because there is absolutely no evidence that the kind of computer-based testing which is being used in Scotland has any significant part to play in closing the gap.

Professor Pasi Sahlberg, renowned for his part in the improvement of Finnish education and a member of the international group advising the Scottish Government, recently wrote a blog entitled “A three-point plan for healthier kids: play, play and more play”.

In its recent publication “Realising the Ambition: Being me” the Scottish Government has correctly put play, and outdoor play particularly, at the heart of Early Years education. So, why is it holding on to the belief that standardised testing, as opposed to diagnostic testing, is required for five-year-olds?

I have personally seen these online tests being administered in a primary school and there are simply too many variables at play for the information from these tests to be of any value in closing the gap.

I would suggest that the Government rereads its own publications, listens to its own experts and, above all, takes account of the views of parents. If the pandemic has taught us anything it is that evidence is crucial to good decision-making. Where is the evidence that standardised testing helps close the poverty-related attainment gap?

Brian Boyd, Emeritus professor of education, South Lanarkshire.

END THE MARKET OF THE CASINO

THE actions of Wallstreetbets driving up the share price of GameStop and now the silver bullion price (“Issue of the Day, Home trading”, The , February 2) may induce a feeling of Schadenfreude in the travails of the traditional trading community, some of whom have lost billions of pounds. One wonders how investment bankers and their ilk add to the gaiety of the world. They appear to take other people’s money, gamble it on the stock market, and when they gamble successfully, they skim a proportion off the top before returning a profit to their clients. This has been an extremely successful strategy, since investment bankers earn millions of pounds every year.

The actions of the stock market are a long way from how it originally was supposed to work. In the past, if someone needed capital in order to grow their business, they would offer a proportion of their business in return for money. These investors would believe that the business would be successful and they would get a return on their investment. At some time in the future some of them would like to sell their investment for one reason or another and someone else who also believed in the company would buy their share.

Today we are a long way from that position. Investors can buy and sell shares within microseconds. Hoping that the price will drop, they can sell shares that they do not own so that they can buy them back at a lower price. Similarly, they can buy at a lower price and sell soon after (they hope) as the price rises. This is the market of the casino. It does not benefit the companies whose share price is traded but puts lots of money in the pockets of successful players in this game.

If the regulation were changed such that one had to keep shares that you bought for (say) a week or a month, this would eliminate AI algorithms buying and selling within microseconds for no benefit to anyone other than themselves. It would also encourage investment in companies in which you believed and provide some sort of order to the stock market. I will not hold my breath.

Colin Gunn, Glasgow G73.

HOW TO DELIVER MUCH-NEEDED HOUSING

IN July this year, John Lewis was considering repurposing parts of its store portfolio into residential. Surely, with the demise of Debenhams, would it not be worth considering converting its store in Glasgow’s Argyle Street into residential space on all, or some of the upper floors? Two benefits would arise, cutting down the amount of street level retail units on a currently/future struggling street, and creating much needed inner-city accommodation. The area would be revitalised throughout the whole day and public transport is readily available nearby.

George Dale, Beith.

I’M SO BORED…

IT’S now been almost a year since the first lockdown and I have already been vaccinated (age not disclosed). At the time I threw myself into crosswords, suduko and jigsaws. I hadn’t completed a jigsaw for maybe 60 years.

Now I haven’t got the same urge to do a jigsaw, with two unopened in the cupboard. I can’t get motivated. I just long for some kind of normality.

Anyone else in the same boat?

Eric Macdonald, Paisley.

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