Advance in attainment negligible

30th March 2007 at 01:00
Is the national teachers' agreement working? Improved practice will tell

SCOTTISH SCHOOLS will have to double their current levels of attainment if they are to measure up to other countries, a right-wing think tank suggests.

As the Scottish Executive continues its efforts to benchmark the performance of schools against standards elsewhere (p4), a report by the Policy Institute says that, despite record spending, the number of S4 pupils achieving five good grades (defined as Standard grades 1-3, Intermediate 2 A-C and Intermediate 1 A) has shown little improvement for a decade.

The figures in the report, written by James Stanfield of the School of Education at the University of Newcastle, show little shift from 1996-97, when 55 per cent made the grade on this measure, compared with about 60 per cent in 2004-05. This contrasts with England where the proportion getting five good GCSEs rose over the period from 45 per cent to 59 per cent.

The Scottish figures ranged from around 80 per cent in East Renfrewshire to 40 per cent in Glasgow. Most authorities experienced a "moderate increase", but the performance in six declined.

The report says a more revealing measure is those in S4 with Eng-lish and maths in their five good grades, which should become the "official benchmark" for judging state schools. This has remained at around 45 per cent since devolution, but the institute proposes that it should rise to 90 per cent. Only nine of the 32 authorities had more than 50 per cent of S4 pupils passing that test, says Mr Stanfield.

Although he acknowledges that Scottish pupils have done well in recent OECD international surveys, they have performed poorly in others. These studies should be treated with caution because they are handled differently in different countries, he suggests. At best, they reveal "a mixed bag" of results and do not support claims by the Scottish Executive that the education system is "among the best performing in the world".

Mr Stanfield recommends the executive set out plans for the doubling of S4 attainment, including the cost and timescale, and undertake annual surveys of parents, employers and teachers to measure progress.

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