Niamh Stack & Margaret Sutherland

Identifying highly able pupils is a tall order

Tests like Pisa ignore context, such as background or disability, and fail to spot potential in young people – so let’s focus on widening opportunities

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A report by the Sutton Trust social mobility charity recently made the rather sweeping claim that “there is no specific area where able children in Scotland really excel” ( This assertion and others are based on a reanalysis of elements of the 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) results.

To us, and many other colleagues, the manner in which Pisa data is collected and the conclusions based on it are not without problems. Here, however, we want to focus specifically on the above claim and argue for the importance of taking a critical look at the evidence ...

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