Eight years of steady improvement in outcomes for Scotland’s schoolchildren leaving non-Scottish parts well behind?

Image PA

Note: This report has not been checked by Alasdair, TuS Education and Gardening Correspondent. Readers are advised to re-read after he has had time to wash his hands, hopefully not of the whole thing though (I know, clumsy sentence).

Is that top line a bit flat?

Again, that looks a bit flat. Bigger graph with taller Y axis would give the achievement what it deserves, visually.

For older readers, SCQF Level 6 is like the Highers award, Level 5 is like O Grade or the higher Standard Grade awards and Level 4 is like the lower Standard Grade awards (Alasdair?).

From Summary Statistics for Attainment, Leaver Destinations and Healthy Living No. 8: 2018 Edition (Best-seller title?), corrected and released again today, we see clear evidence of a steady growth in the number of pupils leaving Scotland’s schools with qualifications and/or with the happy expectation of going on to a positive destination in either work or in further and higher education.


Though not 100% certain about the comparison (Alasdair?), I think only 66.9% of GCSE entrants in England got 1 or more GCSE awards compared to the 86.1% in Scotland achieving 1 or more SCQF Level 5 awards.


Published by johnrobertson834

Retired Professor of Media Politics Not-for-profit independent political analysis

6 thoughts on “Eight years of steady improvement in outcomes for Scotland’s schoolchildren leaving non-Scottish parts well behind?

  1. I am not sure I can live up to that billing, since it is more than 10 years since I left the groves of academe.

    The Scottish Credit and Qualifications framework was established to enable, amongst other things identification of trends such as those you are commenting on here, to be made. (Incidentally, the SCQF was set up by the mother of a couple of pupils at one of the schools where I worked.) Your exemplars of what the SCQF levels indicate is accurate. There have been a number of changes in the Scottish examination system over the past couple of decades and one of the purposes of the SCQF was to enable reasonably valid comparisons to be made with earlier systems. It was a benchmarking exercise. It is a 12 point scale with level 12 being PhD level.

    All schoolchildren in Scotland, when they are in S2 (but, it might be even earlier now) are allocated a Scottish Candidate Number (SCN) which they have for life. This allows school attained qualifications and FE and HE qualifications attained in later life to be tracked. So, for example, as you have shown in posts in the past, we can see that people going via the FE route rather than HE can reach SCQF levels 9, 10, 11, 12. This knees in the goolies the customary media jibe about ‘sink schools’ compared to ‘top’ schools. Since many government initiatives take several years for effects to emerge, data such as this allows for the effects to be evaluated.

    The SCN is one of a number of markers that enables authorities in Scotland to keep track of children, if their families, for various reasons, move to other parts of Scotland. Being excluded from school in Scotland is decreasing substantially and even when children are, formally removed from the roll, there is still a requirement that they be provided with education. Of course, when they get older, some of these young people return to education – sometimes via the Prison Service – and attain qualifications.

    Comparisons with England have to be made a bit more tentatively, but universities and other HE and FE institutions require to have some way of comparing applicants from the different parts of the UK, in deciding the allocation of places. Indeed, Part of the reason for the SCQF was for HE purposes – the ‘inventor’ worked in Admissions. So, if you still have contacts at your old university some of them might be able to give you a more accurate picture.

    School education in England has drifted significantly from that in Scotland over the past 10 years and more, as I became aware of when I was asked to help advise some parents in the London borough in which my daughter lives, who were protesting against the funding allocations. Many of the kinds of things which were similar, but often named differently, no longer apply. There are so many different kinds of schools in England and, with councils having almost no locus in education, the collection of data is not as consistent and systematic. And, as recently revealed, some of the private sector schools in England sit ‘different’ GCSEs, which one body claims are not as challenging and rigorous as those taken by the public sector schools. However, until recently they have been considered ‘equivalent’ – meaning the ‘top’ results are skewed to the private sector! Cannot have the hoi polloi getting too many places at Oxbridge!!!

    A couple of paragraphs earlier, I mentioned exclusions from school. A serious problem in England is about exclusion from school. The companies which run schools are not required to ensure these excluded young people have an education and there is no common system to record that they are not in education, thus many just leave education and do not appear in the school data. It is thought that many of these young people are easy prey for criminal elements who groom them. It is likely that the huge increase in knife crime and other violent actions amongst groups of young people in England can be attributed to the fact that they have not been in the school system with the discipline and support services that are the norm in Scotland.

    Since the headline data to which you refer are based on census data of age cohorts, it is plausible that the outcomes for England are lower than those for Scotland because so many young people ‘fall through the cracks’ of the gimcrack education system.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good info in both the article and the comments – most useful. Noticed this statistical info on the news.gov.scot website today and couldn’t help but wonder whether the significant improvement in the quality of the school estate achieved during the years of SNP Scottish Government stewardship wasn’t also having a helpful impact on these identified improvements in attainment level and positive school-leaver destinations? Good or satisfactory condition school estates have steadily climbed to a record high under the SNP. Link and snippet below:


    928 schools built or substantially refurbished since 2007.

    New schools will be built from Aberdeenshire to Ayrshire in the first phase of a nationwide £1 billion investment programme.

    The Scottish Government will contribute funding of between £220 million and £275 million in partnership with local authorities across the country to replace 26 schools, with a further phase of investment to be announced within 12 months.

    The announcement comes on the day National Statistics showed the proportion of schools in good or satisfactory condition increased from 61.1% in April 2007 to 88.3% in April 2019. The School Estates Statistics 2019 also showed that the proportion of pupils educated in these good or satisfactory condition schools has hit a record of 89.6%, up from 60.8% in 2007.

    Tackling the climate emergency is central to Scotland’s new Learning Estates Strategy, with lessons learned from previous education infrastructure projects informing future construction to create low carbon digitally enabled schools and campuses. Scottish Futures Trust will manage the programme on behalf of the Scottish Government.

    SNP Scottish Govt doing that ‘Day Job’ thing again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Repairing the PFI schools built under Labour/LibDem Coalition probably helped to boost the state of the school estate.

      I noticed yesterday that the headlines announcing the £1 billion for new schools made it sound as if this would be funding the first schools built by the Scottish Government.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Some further useful information regarding Scottish levels of education and qualifications is identified in the Scottish Household Survey info carried on the news.gov.scot website today. Note the major improvement in levels of highest qualifications held (and reduction in percentage of those holding no qualifications) within the Scottish resident population (over age 16 years) over the period 2007 (when an SNP Scottish Govt took office) until the latest figures from 2018. Quite dramatic actually. Link and snippets below:


    Highest level of qualification held by adults aged 16 and over by year

    • The proportion of adults aged 16 and over without any qualifications has decreased from around one in four adults (23 per cent) in 2007 to around one in six adults (15 per cent) in 2018, whilst the proportion of those with a degree or professional qualification has increased to around one in three adults (32 per cent). Adults aged 25 to 34 and 35 to 44 had the highest proportion with a degree or professional qualification compared to other age groups. A larger proportion of women had a degree or professional qualification compared to men.

    o Links between degree level qualifications and higher incomes can be seen amongst adults aged 16-64. In 2018, as income increased, the proportion of adults aged 16-64 with a degree or professional qualification more than doubled (from 24 per cent of those in the lowest income group to 51 per cent for those in the highest income group).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are many factors which account statistically for the variation in school achievement amongst children, The factor which has the biggest effect is the educational level of achievement of mothers. Since, as you say, “[a] larger proportion of women had a degree or professional qualification compared to men”, then it is likely that this will have contributed to the increasing levels of achievement of their children.

      There are exceptions, of course – my mammy left school at 14! But, sadly and shamefully, this was the experience of most women prior to the second world war. My mother-in-law was taken out of school at 12, but of her three children, two achieved university degrees and the other went from school into banking, took the banking qualifications and achieved manager level at the Edinburgh HQ of BoS.

      What the data indicates is that investing more in the early years, from the post natal stage to the end of the primary school years and providing more support for mothers during these years, is the best way of raising attainment of the population as a whole and of closing the gap in attainment between the different socio-economic groups. However, fathers are now playing a more active role in parenting. My own father and my father-in-law had to Labour physically at their jobs and had to work long hours and overtime to get a living wage and so, could not play as big a role in child rearing as I and many of my contemporaries were able to do. And, of course, being able to do so, was tremendously enriching as human experience.


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