International Council Finds Improvements in Scotland’s Schools in only Two Years


The International Council of Education Advisers (ICEA) have reported the key evidence on improvement. This was published on 19th March but attracted little attention, in sharp contrast with the enthusiastic coverage of evidence-free attacks by opposition parties at Holyrood.

Readers will appreciate that improvements to the attainment of children and young people in schools can only be partly achieved through changes within schools. A multitude of other factors such as poverty, home circumstances, drug abuse and social media use, may operate to limit what can be done in schools. Inequality in itself, has been shown to be a powerful factor, across the board in the quality of life. Current and recent Westminster austerity programmes can only have hampered this Scottish Government strategy. That this programme has produced objective measures of progress at all and in a very short timescale is to be commended.


The key areas for improvement were:


For reasons of space, this report focuses on the change within schools.

The Evidence of Change 2014/15 to 2016/17


This is by far the most demanding of the objectives, seriously constrained as it is by background factors such as poverty. Children are still, slightly more so, arriving in schools bringing problems for learning with them. That the gap between the most and least deprived is narrowing (bottom-right) must be testimony to the Scottish government’s measures to reduce the impact of Westminster austerity legislation over the past ten years.



As percentages, these seem quite small improvements but remember that they represent thousands of pupils (nearly 300 000 in secondaries alone) and that they have been achieved in challenging times beyond the school gates.



Again, there are some quite small percentage gains here and the performance of, I’m guessing mainly boys, those leaving at 16 remains a real problem. Of course, many in this group suffer from all of the social and economic constraints on their performance but experience, in addition, the powerful downward pressures on being seen to work hard at school, of a testosterone-fuelled macho culture which is all around them in their immediate environment and the wider culture of violent media and often brutally competitive sporting events.

On the bright side there is real evidence of a very significant improvement in the attainment of the most deprived, from 34.9% to 44.4%, leaving at 18 with one or more qualifications at Level 6 (SQA Highers) or better.!/vizhome/NIFInteractiveEvidenceReport/FrontPage?:linktarget=_parent



4 thoughts on “International Council Finds Improvements in Scotland’s Schools in only Two Years

  1. Gerry Robertson April 3, 2019 / 10:44 am

    Prof just like WOS your work in dismantling the media disinformation is crucial. Thanks again for all your hard work. With your agreement I have used excerpts to destroy Unionist arguments.


  2. Alasdair Macdonald April 3, 2019 / 10:49 am

    There is a small group called the Education Colloquium of the Universities of Glasgow, Strathclyde and the West of Scotland, which, as the title suggests invites speakers to make presentations on current issues in education and at a recent meeting the presentation was by the HTs of the two secondary schools in the Clydebank area presenting on their experiences of the footsteps two years of this programme. Because West Dunbartonshire Council has only five secondary schools (plus associated educational establishments, all work collaboratively.

    The evidence from the first two years of the scheme indicated, as the results in your featured report do, that small gains had been made by those in the fifth SIMD quintile. The teachers involved seemed pretty motivated by the scheme, which gave many teachers a fair degree of responsibility for managing aspects and, more importantly, for creating and developing the strategies. There is also significant involvement of senior students as well as substantial ‘outreach’ activities to engage parents and other groups more constructively. Schools exist in a context of community and more creative and empowered communities lead to happier and more effective schools.

    The current round of funding will end in about three years, because it is governed by the electoral cycle of the Scottish Parliament. If there is little change in the current distribution of seats, then it is likely to be extended for a further five years. Personally, I think that an entire cohort has to go through before a serous judgement can be made and to ensure that transformative change has been embedded, this would imply a total of 15 years.

    Personally, I would like to see the funding distribution altered progressively towards primary schools and especially the earliest and preschool years. The evidence, long predating the Pupil Premium, is that the earlier the supportive actions are instituted the more likely is it that the gap will not develop, or not as pronouncedly. Even Mr Michael Gove acknowledged this! (He sends his children to local state schools, you know – so not all bad!!)


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