Achievement of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) Levels

An Official Statistics Publication for Scotland.

Statistics released today show reductions in the proportions of primary school pupils achieving the expected Curriculum for Excellence levels in literacy and numeracy over the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic period, between 2018/19 and 2020/21.

Achievement of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) Level statistics provide information on performance in the  reading, writing, listening & talking and numeracy ‘organisers’. A pupil is deemed to have achieved the expected level in literacy if they have achieved the expected level in all of reading, writing and listening & talking.

The statistics, based on teacher professional judgement, report on the percentage of school pupils in Primary 1 (P1), Primary 4 (P4) and Primary 7 (P7) who have achieved the expected CfE level relevant to their stage. This data was not collected in 2019/20 due to the closure of schools resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The percentage of pupils achieving the expected CfE level in 2020/21 is lower than in 2018/19 for all stages and all organisers. The size of these decreases range between three and six percentage points and are generally larger than previous changes at national level. This is not unexpected due to disruption to learning and teaching caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

For each organiser, a higher proportion of pupils living in the least deprived areas achieved the CfE level relevant to their stage compared to pupils living in the most deprived areas (i.e. there is a deprivation ‘gap’). Compared to 2018/19 these deprivation gaps have widened as the percentage of pupils from the most deprived areas achieving the expected levels has fallen by more than for those in the least deprived areas.

In literacy the gap between primary pupils (P1, P4 and P7 combined) from the 20% most deprived areas and those from the 20% least deprived areas was 24.7 percentage points in 2020/21 – up from 20.7 percentage points in 2018/19.

The equivalent gap in numeracy was 21.4 percentage points in 2020/21 – up from 16.8 percentage points in 2018/19.

The figures released today were produced in accordance with professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Statistics.


Achievement of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) Levels 2020/21 contains achievement data based on all pupils in publicly funded Primary 1, Primary 4 and Primary 7 classes.

Typically the publication covers pupils in P1, P4, P7, S3 and special schools. However, this year’s publication covers results for Primary (P1, P4 and P7) pupils only. Data for S3 and special school pupils was not collected in 2020/21 due to other pressures on these schools including implementation of the SQA Alternative Certification Model, which was used to award National 5s, Highers and Advanced Highers in 2021.

The Scottish Government did not collect Achievement of CfE Levels data for any pupils in 2019/20. Schools were closed in Scotland between March 2020 and the end of the academic year as a result of the pandemic meaning that they were closed on the planned ACEL census date of 8th June 2020. It was concluded that it would not be possible to collect consistent data that was fit for purpose and that any attempt to do so would add considerably to other pressures on school and education authority staff. The decision was therefore taken to suspend the data collection.

After the cancellation of the 2019/20 data collection these (2020/21) statistics provide a first indication of the impact of the pandemic on aspects of young people’s learning.

More information on the impact on Covid-19 in these statistics can be found in the publication.

Scotland’s Chief Statistician is also publishing school level data on Achievement of CfE Levels. All school level results will be presented in ten per cent bandings (i.e. under 10%, 10% – under 20% etc.).  To prevent potential disclosure of information relating to individual pupils within schools, any schools in which the relevant cohort contains 20 or fewer pupils will be suppressed. 

Further information on school statistics can be found on the Scottish Government website.

The figures released today were produced by professionally independent statistical staff in accordance with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.


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