In an unusually blunt message, Cathy Jamieson, the Education Minister, has called for action to improve 5-14 test results.
Her comments follow further evidence of the unreliability of some 5-14 testing with the publication this week of the annual attainment figures. They show that, while performance in reading, writing and maths has improved at all stages, the averages disguise major gaps between authorities and reveal once again the falling attainment scores as pupils move up primary and into secondary.
The Executive has also cautioned against reading too much into the P2 data because "it is clear that testing to confirm teachers' judgments of the level of attainment reached by P2 pupils is not being carried out uniformly across schools in Scotland." It suggests the P3 information is more accurate.
The results show very low achievement of level A in P2 - 75 per cent in maths, 51 per cent in reading and 38 per cent in writing. By P3, the respective figures for level A had leapt to 95 per cent, 87 per cent and 85 per cent.
The trend of previous years is repeated once again as older pupils fail to shine. The 95 per cent of P3 pupils who attained level A in maths declines steadily until it becomes 54 per cent at level E by the end of S2; 87 per cent achieve level A in reading in P3 which falls to 59 per cent at level E in S2; and 85 per cent at level A in writing in P3 drops to 50 per cent of S2 at level E.
These scores all represent improvements on last year, but this is not enough for the Minister. Ms Jamieson said that, while she welcomed the progress, "there are wide variations in attainment". She added: "While many schools across Scotland are doing exceptionally well, others are not reaching the level of attainment parents should expect. Quite simply, that gap is unacceptable and must be closed.
"Once again these figures show why we must pay particular attention to the transition from primary to secondary school. We need to use the flexibility that exists in the education system to improve pupils' experience. during that critical period. "Every school needs to pay more attention to ensuring that programmes for reading, writing and mathematics build effectively on previous learning and ensure that every young person's learning needs are recognised and catered for."
The overall results show steady but unspectacular improvements at all five 5-14 stages in the three subjects. In maths, 95 per cent had reached level A by the end of P3 (the same as last year), 78 per cent level B by the end of P4 (77 per cent),79 per cent level C by the end of P6, 68 per cent level D by the end of P7 (67 per cent) and 54 per cent level E by the end of S2 (51 per cent).
The respective figures for reading at the five stages are 87 per cent (the same as last year), 80 per cent (79 per cent), 84 per cent (83 per cent), 72 per cent (70 per cent) and 59 per cent (56 per cent).
In writing, the corresponding results are 85 per cent (83 per cent), 74 per cent (71 per cent), 74 per cent (71 per cent), 59 per cent (56 per cent) and 50 per cent (46 per cent).