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.