First Minister confirms plans to introduce standardised assessments for schools.

Scotland will seize the opportunity to be a world leader in assessing and driving forward educational progress for all children, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said yesterday.

Launching a new National Improvement Framework for education, the First Minister outlined her ambition to eliminate the attainment gap between the least and most deprived children, setting out the action already being taken to address the gap through initiatives such as the £100 million Attainment Challenge Fund

The Framework has been developed in consultation with teachers, parents and local authorities. It will see new and better information gathered throughout primary and early secondary school years to support individual children’s progress and to identify where improvement is needed.

Local authorities will use new standardised assessments, in reading, writing and numeracy in P1, P4, P7 and S3 to evaluate learning and teaching through Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence. The information will be used by teachers to inform their judgement in the classroom and by parents, schools and local authorities to ensure that every child gets the right support at the right time. The assessments will be piloted in 2016 and available for use in 2017.

From 2017, information on the percentage of children achieving curriculum levels in literacy and numeracy at P1, P4, P7 and S3 will be published nationally and by school and local authority. This data will be used to set specific milestones for closing the gap in attainment between children from the least and most deprived communities in Scotland.

Parents will also be able to access information about their own child’s progress to know if further support may be required at home and in school.

Addressing the International Congress on School Effectiveness and Improvement held in Glasgow the First Minister said:

“Despite the progress we are making, nobody can be comfortable living in a country where different levels of wealth create such a significant gap in the attainment levels – and therefore the life chances – of so many children. That’s why the Scottish Government is taking concerted action now. Our overall aim is to raise standards everywhere, but to raise them most quickly, in the areas that most need it.

“But we can only drive rapid and significant improvement if we can understand whether what we are doing is working. At the moment, nearly all of the 32 local authority areas in Scotland, conduct some form of standardised assessment to monitor children’s progress. However those assessments aren’t conducted on a consistent basis. As a result there is currently a lack of information about overall performance at both a national and local level.

“That’s why today, after three months of extensive consultation, we are launching a National Improvement Framework for Scottish education. It is based on four key priorities for education – raising attainment, closing the attainment gap, improving health and wellbeing, and improving employability. It sets out measures for school improvement, school leadership, supporting teachers and engaging parents.

“Teacher judgement lies at the heart of the system. Teachers will assess the literacy, numeracy of children in primary 1, primary 4, primary 7 and the third year of secondary school using a range of assessment approaches.

“From 2017 – following pilots later this year – teacher judgement will be informed by a system of new national standardised assessment which will provide better and more consistent data about our children’s performance than we have ever had before. This teacher judgement data, underpinned by the new assessments, will be collected and published nationally each year to give us – for the very first time – a clear and consistent picture of how children and young people are progressing in their learning.

“The information will allow us over the next few years to set clear, specific and meaningful milestones on the road to closing the attainment gap. I want to be clear, today, that my personal determination is that we are able to see and demonstrate progress on both excellence and equity by the end of the next parliament. And, as a country, I believe that we should all aspire to making substantial progress in completely eliminating the attainment gap within the next decade.

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