Scru­tiny of Maths and English at worst level in 60 years

Lead­ing ed­u­ca­tion ex­pert slams lack of mon­i­tor­ing of per­for­mance in schools

The Herald - - FRONT PAGE - AN­DREW DENHOLM ED­U­CA­TION COR­RE­SPON­DENT

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.”

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