Information for teachers
The Scottish Government introduced Scottish National Standardised Assessments (SNSA) and their Gaelic equivalent, Measaidhean Coitcheann Nàiseanta airson Foghlam tron Ghàidhlig (MCNG) as part of the National Improvement Framework.
Phase two sees the SNSA and the MCNG being delivered through a combined platform and referred to collectively as the National Standarised Assessments for Scotland (NSA). While the assessment content for the SNSA and MCNG will remain entirely distinct, the two assessments will now share a common approach to assessment design, standardisation, reporting, and key aspects of system functionality.
The SNSA and the MCNG were designed and developed specifically for the Scottish curriculum. All questions are reviewed and approved by panels of Education Scotland staff to ensure alignment with Curriculum for Excellence and, in the case of the MCNG, the principles of Gaelic Medium Education. Each question is mapped to an organiser and sub-category in the CfE Literacy or Numeracy benchmarks at a relevant stage for the year group.
To complement the assessment information provided from everyday learning situations, and through observation and interaction with children and young people, the NSAs:
- provide diagnostic reports detailing areas where children and young people have shown particular strengths and where they require further support
- help you to make decisions about the next steps in learning, both for individual learners, and in terms of the particular approaches used in the classroom
- provide you with additional information to consider when making a professional judgement on a learner's progress in achieving the relevant Curriculum for Excellence level.
What you need to know as a teacher
What is being assessed?
The National Standardised Assessments for Scotland (NSA) cover aspects of reading, writing and numeracy, providing teachers with indicative, diagnostic information on children’s progress in these curricular areas.
Who is being assessed?
Children and young people in P1, P4, P7 and S3.
When will children and young people be assessed?
They will be assessed once in each curricular area, during each of the relevant school years, but you, in consultation with your school and local authority, will decide when within that year is the most appropriate time. The assessments may be carried out:
- at the start of the school year or midway through to support your understanding of how individual children and young people are progressing in aspects of literacy and numeracy, and help plan next steps in learning with your class;
- at the end of the school year to help inform your judgements of whether individual learners have achieved the Curriculum for Excellence level relevant to their stage. The outcomes of each child or young person's assessment should be shared with their next year’s teacher, so that future learning can be planned.
There is no need for all learners to undertake the assessments within the same “window” or block of time. Your professional judgement is key. Decisions on when assessments should be administered for children and young people should be driven by educational arguments and based on the needs and interests of the individual learner.
In GME, children and young people need to experience high quality, total immersion learning until they have achieved a secure foundation and level of fluency in Gaelic that will enable them to progress further. Acquiring skills in reading and writing English is then planned for within the curriculum.
As P1 children in GME have not experienced formal learning of the literacy and English experiences and outcomes and children in P4 are at an early stage of undertaking such learning, they are not expected to take the English medium Scottish National Standardised Assessments.
GME learners in P7 and S3 are entitled to take the English medium Scottish National Standardised Assessments in reading and writing, in addition to the Measaidhean Coitcheann Nàiseanta airson Foghlam tron Ghàidhlig in reading, writing and numeracy. This reflects the fact that children and young people in GME access the curriculum in a distinct way to those in English medium education. Progress in each medium of learning should therefore be assessed and understood separately.
How are children and young people assessed?
The National Standardised Assessments for Scotland are delivered online and automatically marked through the online system. For teachers and school leaders, the assessment reports provide a consistent and objective measure of children's progress in aspects of reading, writing and numeracy.
How many assessments do children and young people take in a school session?
The number of assessments taken differs slightly for learners in English medium education, and those in Gaelic Medium Education.
English medium education learners
- 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 young people take three SNSA assessments: one in reading, one in writing and one in numeracy.
Gaelic medium education learners
- P1 children take two MCNG assessments: one in literacy and one in numeracy.
- P4 children take three MCNG assessments: one in reading, one in writing and one in numeracy.
- P7 children take three MCNG assessments: one in reading, one in writing and one in numeracy and two English medium Scottish National Standardised Assessments: one in reading and one in writing.
- S3 young people take three MCNG assessments: one in reading, one in writing and one in numeracy* and two English medium Scottish National Standardised Assessments: one in reading and one in writing.
* We recognise the need for a flexible approach for those young people who, depending on their school’s curriculum by the end of S3, may be accessing numeracy and mathematics through the medium of English. In such circumstances, it is likely to be more appropriate to undertake the English medium Scottish National Standardised Assessment for numeracy.
How long do the assessments take?
The assessments are designed to be as short as possible and age and stage appropriate. There is no time limit set, to ensure that no child or young person feels any unnecessary time pressure when undertaking the assessments. Most learners should require no more than 40 minutes to complete each assessment.
- P1: In most cases it will take P1 learners less than 30 minutes to complete an assessment.
- P4/P7/S3: On average, allow up to 40 minutes to complete the assessment. Some learners will need more time, but many will finish in less than 30 minutes. Remember that learners can return to complete an assessment after a break.
Classroom management and IT provision should be carefully considered before administering the assessments as this can affect time taken.
What do the assessments consist of?
Children and young people are presented with a range of questions, often with illustrations or images.The assessments are adaptive and establish learner's ability without them having to face lots of questions that are too easy, or too difficult. Assessment questions change based on how well a learner is doing. If a learner is struggling, the questions will get easier, and if a learner is doing well, the questions will become more challenging.
What does this mean for you?
The assessments should be part of routine learning activities for children and young people. No special preparation is required. However, you will need to think about how you manage administering them within your classroom and how you ensure that children and young people understand that the standardised assessments are just one part of the broader approach to assessment within Scottish schools. Tips and illustrations on classroom management are available within the assessment platform.
How will this affect how you teach?
The diagnostic reports from the assessments should provide insight into how you might plan your future teaching to meet learners' needs. There should be no additional workload for teachers or learners. The assessments are as inclusive as possible to accommodate the needs of children and young people who require additional support. As the assessments reflect Curriculum for Excellence and, in the case of the MCNG, the principles of GME, they should complement everyday learning and teaching and should not be viewed as an add-on or something different.
What does this mean for your children and young people?
Children and young people do not have to revise or prepare for these assessments and evidence from phase one shows us that many learners enjoy doing them. The assessments aim to be as inclusive as possible to accommodate the needs of children and young people who require additional support with their learning.
Your professional judgement is key in measuring a learner’s progress. NSA data will contribute to a complete and balanced picture of how learners are progressing, giving you some of the diagnostic information you need to support every child or young person to succeed. The assessments should not be used in isolation and should not be viewed as a replacement for the ongoing assessment of learners' progress that is central to Curriculum for Excellence. Designing the assessments in line with Curriculum for Excellence helps ensure that daily classroom learning is all the preparation a child or young person will need to take the assessments.
Can you access the assessments through Glow?
Yes, users with a Glow login can access the assessments directly when logged into Glow. For further information, see the NSA sign in page.
A range of training opportunities will be rolled out over the course of the academic year. The initial focus for training will be on the provision of introductory support materials which ensure practitioners can access the platform, make full use of its functionality, and deliver assessments in ways which support learners who require additional support with their learning or for whom English is an additional language.
The focus of training thereafter will move onto the use of NSA data and more specific areas of assessment delivery, aligned to the training coverage from phase one.
Resources will be made available through the help pages on the portal in the first instance. Users will also have access to the NSA service desk, should they have any queries or require further assistance.
Training will be delivered primarily through digital means. During the winter term, support officers will begin to make contact with local authorities to establish training needs and priorities and identify what face to face training opportunities and live webinar provision authorities would find most helpful.