Chapter 1: Introduction
1.1 Achievement of CfE Levels Return
The data gathered in the Achievement of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) Levels Return relates to achievement in the Broad General Education (BGE) and is based on teacher professional judgements regarding pupil's achievement in literacy and numeracy against CfE levels. The data was provided to the Scottish Government by all 32 Local Authorities, as well as grant-aided schools. The information included in this publication is the first such data for the BGE to be gathered and published under CfE.
The data shows the CfE level achieved (as per teacher professional judgements) for each pupil within selected stages (P1, P4, P7 and S3 and for pupils based in standalone special schools/units) in reading, writing, listening & talking and numeracy, and relates to the CfE level achieved as at June 2016.
A very small proportion of children have long term significant and complex additional support needs that mean that it is unlikely that they will progress through the CfE levels during their time in education. These children are recorded as 'child following individual milestones' and are included in the data. However, children for whom the teacher has been unable to make a professional judgement are not included.
Teacher professional judgements of achievement of a level are based on all of the evidence collected by teachers during the on-going assessment of children and young people's learning. A wide range of evidence is collected in a variety of ways. This includes observing learners at work, assessing children's knowledge and understanding by talking to them about their learning, and assessing their work in class.
1.2 Curriculum for Excellence levels
Curriculum for Excellence is designed to achieve a transformation in education in Scotland by providing a coherent, more flexible and enriched curriculum for children and young people aged from 3 to 18. The curriculum includes the totality of experiences which are planned for children and young people through their education, wherever they are being educated.
Further information on Curriculum for Excellence can be found here: http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/learningandteaching/thecurriculum/whatiscurriculumforexcellence/index.asp
Curriculum for Excellence defines five levels of learning. The first four levels are described in the Experiences and Outcomes, with progression to qualifications described under a fifth level, the senior phase.
The path most children and young people are expected to follow through the levels reflects the stages of maturation of children and young people and the changing ways in which they engage with learning as they develop.
Some children and young people will start learning at these levels earlier and others later, depending upon individual needs and aptitudes. The framework is however designed to be flexible in order to permit careful planning for those with additional support needs, including those who, for example, have a learning difficulty and those who are particularly high attaining.
While children and young people should feel that the transition from one stage of learning to another is smooth, they should still be able to look forward to the excitement of starting nursery, primary school and secondary school, and finally to moving on to positive and sustained destinations.
The final two years of early learning and childcare before a child goes to school and P1, or later for some.
To the end of P4, but earlier or later for some.
To the end of P7, but earlier or later for some.
Third and Fourth
S1 to S3, but earlier or later for some. The Fourth Level broadly equates to Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework level 4.
The Fourth Level experiences and outcomes are intended to provide possibilities for choice and young people's programmes will not include all of the Fourth Level outcomes.
S4 to S6, and college or other means of study.
1.3 Gaelic Medium Education
Children based in Gaelic Medium Primary Schools/classes will learn and develop their literacy and numeracy skills in both the medium of Gaelic and English. Children in Primary 1 Gaelic Medium Primary Schools will generally be immersed in developing their Gàidhlig reading, Gàidhlig writing, Gàidhlig listening & talking and numeracy skills in the medium of Gaelic.
From around Primary 3, children based in Gaelic Medium Primary Schools/Classes will also start to develop their skills in reading, writing and listening & talking in the English language. It is expected that by the end of Primary 7, most children who have been based in Gaelic Medium Primary Schools/classes should be achieving Second Level in reading, writing, and listening & talking in both Gàidhlig and English .
It is also expected that most children who have been based in Gaelic Medium Primary Schools/classes should be achieving First Level by the end of Primary 4, and Second Level by the end of Primary 7, in numeracy.
1.4 Pupils based in special schools/units
Special schools/units cater for children of all ages. The information gathered as part of this return does not include a specific stage for these children (i.e. they are simply recorded as being a pupil based in a special school/unit). Therefore, it is not possible to calculate the percentage of children who have achieved the CfE level relevant to their stage.
Due to the lack of stage information, special schools/units were requested to provide information for all children based in these establishments (not just those pupils who were P1, P4, P7 or S3). Some establishments did provide information for all children based in their establishment. However, some establishments misunderstood the requirement and provided information for pupils which they record locally as being in P1, P4, P7 and S3. Therefore, the information provided from standalone special schools/units has been inconsistent in this first year's data collection and the data requirements will be considered further for forthcoming collections.
Using the information that has been received this year, we are still able to analyse the information in order to look at the overall picture of the CfE levels that have been achieved for the children based in special schools/units.
1.5 Experimental statistics
Experimental statistics are Official Statistics that are undergoing development. They are defined in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics as: 'new Official Statistics undergoing evaluation that are published in order to involve users and stakeholders in their development as a means to build in quality at an early stage'.
Principle 4, Practice 5 of the Code instructs producers to release experimental statistics to achieve continuous improvement in statistical processes; Protocol 1, Practice 5 states that producers should 'involve users in the evaluation of experimental statistics'. There is an emphasis across the Government Statistical Service (GSS) to consult users during the review of statistics, and to make experimental series available during this period to assist in the quality assurance, development and familiarisation of the statistics.
The Code of Practice for Official Statistics promotes and supports the release of experimental statistics to involve users in their development at an early stage; however, it is likely that the statistics will not be fully compliant in all areas due to their nature as 'data being developed'.
The Scottish Government releases experimental statistics to engage with users and understand their needs as part of compliance with Principle 1 of the Code. The statistics may also be released to help develop methods and improvements in quality under Principle 4 of the Code, and it is important that these developments are fully discussed alongside the statistics. The statistics should always be supported by appropriate guidance and commentary to inform users about their strengths and weaknesses, particularly in relation to use under Principle 8 of the Code (Frankness and Accessibility).
The reason for these statistics being classed as experimental statistics is because they are based on a new and developing data source. As such time is required:
a. To receive informed feedback from users and potential users of the statistics;
b. For users to become familiar with the new statistics and methodology.
1.6 Quality assurance
As discussed in Section 1.1, the collection of these data is new, and reflects a developing approach within schools to the assessment of children's progress against the CfE levels. It is therefore important to consider whether and how this affects the quality, reliability and usability of the data.
As part of the Quality Assurance process, feedback was sought from all data suppliers (Local Authorities and Grant Aided Schools) on the process of compiling and submitting the data - including technical aspects of the guidance issued - and on factors which may affect data quality.
Around three-quarters of data providers provided substantive feedback on the assessment process followed by schools, on their own Quality Assurance of the data and on whether they had any outstanding concerns over the quality of the data. Around three-in-ten data providers stated that they had no such concerns, and a similar number cited specific issues with the data they had provided (for example relating to a specific aspect of the data, specific schools or groups of pupils). Around two-in-five expressed more general concerns relating to the consistency of the assessments within their authority (for example, inconsistencies in understanding or application of assessment approaches between schools, different patterns of performance against other locally-held data (e.g. locally procured standardised assessments)).
Based on this information, caution must be applied in interpreting the data in this publication (including the associated school level data). In particular, comparisons between authorities, or between schools within and across authorities, should not be made without knowledge of the underlying approach to assessment and the context of the authority or school. The data in this publication do not provide detail on the factors which may impact on the accuracy of the data.
A small number of specific issues relating to the collection also became apparent. For special schools, as well as the challenges in identifying those pupils which should be in scope, a relatively large proportion (around 15 per cent) were recorded as 'not assessed' (code 99). Further work will be required to explore this and may require changes to the guidance issued for data providers in advance of future collections.
The data, and feedback from data providers, also clearly highlights a specific challenge in assessing achievement at Fourth Level (S3). The variation between authorities and schools is, generally, far larger in this case than for other stages and levels. For example, in reading (English) the range extends from 4 per cent to 70 per cent. There appears to be less variation at this level in terms of numeracy (18 per cent to 70 per cent). This suggests that further attention should be paid to assessment of progress at this level. However, data are included in this publication for achievement of Third Level or better and Fourth Level specifically. Users should note the increased limitations to Fourth Level data.
The expected standards under CfE were embedded in the Experiences and Outcomes from the outset. However, it is recognised that teachers were not confident in applying these to assessment. As a result, Education Scotland published new Benchmarks for Achievement of CfE levels in literacy and numeracy in August 2016 in order to provide a more explicit and clear statement of standards. Benchmarks for other areas of the curriculum will also be published.
A new national programme of Quality Assurance and Moderation is being put in place to provide more support and improve confidence and understanding amongst teachers, and from August 2017, new nationally consistent standardised assessments will be made available for teachers to help inform their judgements. This is expected to have an impact on the consistency of data in future years.
It can also be useful to compare results from new collections to other, existing sources of information on the same topic. In this case, there are no directly comparable sources of data against which these new data can be compared.
The Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy (SSLN) provides national level estimates of literacy and numeracy performance for P4, P7 and S2 pupils  . It does not provide as broad a view on pupil performance as teacher judgements, nor does it provide data on whether a CfE level has been achieved or not. However, where the two collections overlap, the broad picture at Scotland level is generally similar in both sources, with the possible exception of numeracy performance levels in S3 (note that SSLN assesses S2 pupils).