Scrutiny of Maths and English at worst level in 60 years
Leading education expert slams lack of monitoring of performance in schools
SCOTLAND has no reliable method of monitoring the performance of schools in literacy and numeracy for the first time in almost 60 years, a leading academic has warned.
Lindsay Paterson, professor of education policy at Edinburgh University, said the scrapping of key educational surveys – and the withdrawal from others – had left the country with a system of evaluation that was “woefully inadequate”.
The warning comes at a time when standards in literacy and numeracy have been falling in Scottish schools.
Last year, it was found less than half of Scotland’s 13 and 14-year-olds were performing well in writing.
Following the decline, the Scottish Government replaced the Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy, which measures national performance, with the publication of findings based on teacher judgments of pupils’ ability.
It has been argued the new survey by teachers is better than previous publications because they contain collated information on the performance of every child in Scotland.
And they say the judgments are reliable because teachers can compare their own views alongside the results of new national standardised tests – although crucially the results of these will not be published amid union fears they could be used to rank the performance of teachers.
However, in a recent lecture at Edinburgh University, Mr Paterson argued the data was not suitable for judging the performance of schools because it is based on the subjective views of individual teachers.
He said evidence from earlier surveys showed teacher assessments of their pupils had often been overly optimistic.
He said: “Teachers are expected to draw upon the new standardised assessments when forming these judgments, but no public data will be available to allow any comparison of teacher judgements with independent assessments.
“Furthermore, the Scottish Government withdrew Scotland from the two international surveys of pupil attainment in primary schools, one on mathematics and science and one on literacy.
“For the first time since the 1950s there is no regular survey of Scottish primary pupils, there is no regular survey of school-leavers, there is no survey means by which policy changes might be evaluated in detail.”
Mr Paterson said the only survey that remained was the three-yearly Programme For International Student Assessment series, which tests 15-year-olds.
He added: “That series provides no explanations of much use to understanding policy. There is now not
a single indigenous survey source with which to hold our new rulers to account. There is a philistinism and a closing of minds to science that are the very antithesis of proper accountability.”
Liz Smith, education spokeswoman for the Scottish Conservatives, said the lack of meaningful data to measure how well schools were performing was worrying.
She said: “At a time when the priority is on raising attainment, it is critical that good quality data is available, that it can be used in a wholly transparent manner and that it can inform policy decision-making.”
Iain Gray, education spokesman for the Scottish Labour Party, said government “rhetoric” about raise attainment “rang hollow” because there was no way of measuring success. He said:“the Scottish Government is subjecting Scottish school pupils as young as five to testing, but the data will not be valid, the worst of all worlds.”
A Government spokesman said education was its “defining priority” and it was committed to creating a world-class system that closed the attainment gap between rich and poor.
He said: “Through the National Improvement Framework we now have more data than ever on children’s progress in their learning under Curriculum for Excellence.
“The introduction of standardised assessments will ensure there is an element of national consistency in the judgment that teachers make about pupils’ progress. However, they are also only one source of information for teachers.”