Reform Scotland


The Scottish Government’s proposed National Improvement Framework is a step in the right direction but the National Standardised Assessment needs further thought and careful handling

The Commission on School Reform, established by leading think tanks Reform Scotland and the CSPP, has said today that the Scottish Government’s proposed National Standardised Assessment requires to be redefined and enhanced if it is to prove a useful tool in improving Scotland’s educational performance.

The Commission’s new work – a response to the Government’s National Improvement Framework consultation – follows from its recent analysis of the policy to reduce Scotland’s attainment gap.

The Commission, chaired by a key figure in the development of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), Keir Bloomer, and including many other notable figures (see notes to editors), says today that the proposed national standardised test will provide valuable information on how the system is progressing but:

  • the narrowness of the proposed national assessment, which tests only literacy and numeracy and not other areas such as sciences and languages, could endanger the broad, liberal education envisaged by CfE
  • its value will be largely confined to monitoring progress at national or local authority level because it will be of negligible diagnostic value at pupil or school level, being  too short, too narrow and too infrequent
  • the outcome could be the unhelpful practice of ‘teaching to the test’ to improve league table standings, and excluding the data from FOI legislation should be considered
  • rather than being used at a micro level the data should be used to gather local authority and national results in order to improve performance by international standards

The full consultation response can be read below.

Commenting, Keir Bloomer said:

“The Government is right to try to improve the quality of information available about Scottish education.  The Commission supports much of what is proposed and has no objection in principle to the proposed National Standardised Assessment.  However, it is a mistake to suggest that the assessment will provide much information of direct benefit to parents and teachers.

“The Government should continue with its drive to introduce the assessment but it should change its emphasis to the gathering of local authority and national data as opposed to individual data. Scotland is failing to improve educational outcomes at the rate of other countries, and it is that serious problem which the data gathered from the new assessment should be used to alleviate.  This would help realise the Government’s objective of raising standards for all.

“Consideration should be given to including other curricular areas in the assessment, even if it makes it slightly longer and more time consuming.  This would provide information of great value as Scotland tries to compete in the modern world.

“The Scottish Government is setting out to improve standards and that is admirable.  However, it needs to exercise care with how its proposed assessment is used.”