The Executive issued its first report on how schools and local authorities are shaping up to implement the five national priorities in education.
But, while their performance will be monitored annually through the progress reports that every authority is obliged to publish, no further national reports will be issued until 2006, the first of the target dates by which time Ministers expect to see solid signs of improvement.
The report issued this week covers all five priorities, some more sketchy than others. The field of attainment is inevitably further advanced than those covering infant initiatives on improving the school estate, extending lifelong learning and encouraging pupils' creativity and ambition.
But it is clear one of the major improvements the Executive wants to see over the next three years is the performance of the lowest-achieving pupils. All education authorities have now set targets for delivering on that, as they have in all of the priorities.
Peter Peacock, the Education Minister, said in a foreword: "There has been much progress - but in many areas of performance the evidence about education outcomes is missing, and we can still improve on how we gather the information."
He said the key areas where he wants to see improvements are:
* bringing the achievements of the lowest performing pupils closer to those of the highest;
* schools building on good practice in dealing with indiscipline;
* improving creativity and ambition among pupils which should feed into their achievements.
Plugging the attainment gap, part of the "inclusion and equality" priority, will be a tall order but the Executive says it will be content to narrow it rather than close it. A complex tariff system, in which four Standard grade awards at level 4 amounts to 64 points, shows that the lowest attaining 20 per cent of S4 pupils scored 58 points in 2001, compared with 168 for all pupils.
Education authorities have set targets to narrow the gap and, if they are achieved, the average tariff for the lowest performing pupils will rise from 58 points to 71, a 20 per cent increase.
Authorities' progress will vary widely, however, as their starting points range from the highest tariff of 111 points for Shetland's poorest performers to 29 in Glasgow; if they succeed, their respective scores by 2005 will be 115 and 56.
The national priorities report also repeats the aim that all 16 to 17-year-olds leaving care will have achieved at least a Standard grade in English and maths; the 2001-02 figure was 29 per cent. Authorities such as Aberdeen have said they will simply maintain their current figure of 50 per cent achieving the target; others such as Glasgow aim to rise from 22 per cent to 48 per cent by 2005.