Comparator school measures to be scrapped

14th September 2012 at 01:00
Revised system will include literacy and wider achievements

New ways of measuring secondary school attainment are being developed to replace the much-criticised STACs system (Standard Tables and Charts) based on comparison of SQA exam results.

The new method will include national literacy measures at National 4 or 5 level or above, an interim progress report on the government's Literacy Action Plan revealed this week.

The toolkit will be available in summer 2014 and will form part of the "next steps" by the Scottish government to raise attainment in literacy and measure progress.

Ken Cunningham, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, said the STACs system had been highly unpopular because it led to unfair comparisons, based usually on 20 comparator schools that "in reality, you know don't bear comparison".

The new system will offer a "far better and fairer measure, more geared towards an individual school itself" and include a range of tools for assessing broader achievements beyond exam results.

"Staff from the classroom teacher to the head of school will be able to analyse how they are doing and be more confident about the information they are getting," said Mr Cunningham.

A spokesman for the Scottish government said the Curriculum for Excellence management board had set up a technical group to develop "senior phase benchmarking tools" and make recommendations to the project board later this year.

The literacy report, launched by learning minister Alasdair Allan, also indicated that the government plans to implement at least one of the recommendations in Graham Donaldson's review of teacher education - the development of "diagnostic assessment and self-supported study materials to enable aspiring teachers and newly-qualified teachers to develop their knowledge and skills to teach literacy".

A government response to the National Partnership Group on Teacher Education, set up to implement the Donaldson Report, is expected in the next few weeks.

Literacy hubs will also feature prominently in future work, with further development of the hubs in Edinburgh, Fife, Highland, North Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire, whose success in raising literacy attainment has been widely recognised.

Key elements have been early and robust identification of literacy difficulties, monitoring and tracking, and swift and appropriate actions to resolve them. The hubs' work has been led by educational psychologists and literacy experts.


The Literacy Action Plan's interim progress report was drawn up by a sub- group of the Standing Literacy Commission, chaired by Sir Harry Burns, the Scottish government's chief medical officer. It details progress over the two years since publication of the government's Literacy Action Plan; a full report will be issued at the end of 2013.

The appointment of Sir Harry has been seen as recognition that illiteracy is associated with poverty and disadvantage and strategies need to be cross-cutting and involve different services.

Sir Harry said: "This progress report highlights the more joined-up nature of our work now to improve literacy through effective partnership working across sectors and boundaries, through better use of resources and through adopting and sharing approaches that we know from our evidence and intelligence, really work."

Alasdair Allan, minister for learning, science and Scotland's languages, highlighted the government's investment of pound;4 million in early years literacy, including the PlayTalkRead and Bookbug schemes.

Judith Gillespie, who chaired the 2009 Literacy Commission and is a member of the Standing Literacy Commission, welcomed the introduction of language development checks on two-year-olds by health visitors.

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