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Government under fire as it scraps pupil performance survey

Now ministers will not know whether the flagship policy to close the attainment gap is working, experts say

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Now ministers will not know whether the flagship policy to close the attainment gap is working, experts say

The national survey of pupil performance in English and maths that has brought embarrassment to the Scottish government is to be scrapped next year, TESS can reveal.

Earlier this year, the SNP was accused of trying to bury the disappointing results of the Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy (SSLN) ahead of May’s election.

Now TESS can reveal that the survey will run for the last time this year, with the final set of results to be published in 2017.

The government says that the new National Improvement Framework (NIF) – which will usher in national standardised testing at both primary and secondary level – will provide enough data to gauge how well schools are closing the attainment gap.

But experts say that it will take five years for the NIF to bed in and, in the meantime, the Scottish government will not know if its flagship policy to close the gap – to which it has committed hundreds of millions of pounds – is making any headway.

Keir Bloomer, chair of the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s education committee, said: “It will be at least five years before trends will be apparent in the new information. Thus, there will be no evidence of this kind for the next few years to allow us to say whether the gap is closing or not. I would have thought this would concern the government.”

Mr Bloomer’s views were echoed by assessment expert Professor Louise Hayward, of the University of Glasgow’s school of education. She added that without the SSLN, Scotland would not know whether any improvement shown through the new regime of standardised assessment was genuine.

It might appear that results are improving, but this could be because schools and teachers alike are getting better at rehearsing pupils for the tests, she said.

A spokesperson for the Scottish government said that the SSLN provided useful national information but “did not provide detailed local and school level breakdowns”. The NIF would provide new data on literacy and numeracy, which would “highlight the attainment gap and where it occurs”, he said.

He added: “From 2017-18, teacher professional judgement will be informed by the new national standardised assessments.”

This is an edited version of an article in the 4 November edition of TESS. Subscribers can read the full story here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click hereTESS magazine is available at all good newsagents.

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