Achievement of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) Levels 2016-17

This contains the results of the achievement of curriculum for excellence levels 2016-17.

Chapter 1: Introduction

1.1 Achievement of CfE Levels Return

The data collated in the Achievement of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) Levels Return relates to achievement in the Broad General Education (BGE). It is based on teacher professional judgements regarding pupils' achievement in literacy and numeracy against CfE levels. The data was provided to the Scottish Government by all 32 local authorities and all grant-aided schools. The information included in this publication is the second set of Achievement of CfE Level data to be gathered and published under CfE.

The data shows the CfE level achieved for each pupil within selected stages (P1, P4, P7 and S3 in mainstream schools and for all pupils based in standalone special schools/units) in the following curriculum organisers: reading, writing, listening and talking and numeracy, and relates to the CfE level achieved as at June 2017.

A very small percentage of pupils have long term significant and complex additional support needs that mean that it is unlikely that they will progress through the CfE levels during their time in education. These pupils are recorded as 'child following individual milestones' and are included in the data. However, children for whom the teacher has been unable to make a professional judgement are not included; for example, if a pupil has recently moved to the school and the teacher feels there has been insufficient time for them to form a professional judgement of a pupil's performance.

Teacher professional judgements of achievement of a level are based on all of the evidence collected by teachers during the ongoing assessment of children and young people's learning. A wide range of evidence is collected in a variety of ways. This includes observing learners at work, assessing their work in class and assessing children's knowledge and understanding by talking to them about their learning.

1.2 Curriculum for Excellence levels

Curriculum for Excellence is designed to provide a coherent, more flexible and enriched curriculum for children and young people aged from 3 to 18. The curriculum includes the totality of experiences which are planned for children and young people through their education, wherever they are being educated.

Curriculum for Excellence defines five levels of learning. The first four levels in the Broad General Education are described in the Experiences and Outcomes, with progression to qualifications described under a fifth level, the senior phase.

The path most children and young people are expected to follow through the levels reflects the stages of maturation of children and young people and the changing ways in which they engage with learning as they develop.

Some children and young people will start learning at these levels earlier and others later, depending upon individual needs and aptitudes. The framework is however designed to be flexible in order to permit careful planning for those with additional support needs, including those who, for example, have a learning difficulty and those who are particularly high attaining.

CfE Level



The final two years of early learning and childcare before a child goes to school and P1, or later for some.


To the end of P4, but earlier or later for some.


To the end of P7, but earlier or later for some.

Third and Fourth

S1 to S3, but earlier or later for some. The Fourth Level broadly equates to Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework Level 4.

The Fourth Level experiences and outcomes are intended to provide possibilities for choice and young people's programmes will not include all of the Fourth Level outcomes.

Senior Phase

S4 to S6, and college or other means of study.

1.3 Gaelic Medium Education

Pupils based in Gaelic Medium Primary Schools/classes will learn and develop their literacy and numeracy skills in both the medium of Gaelic and English.

Pupils in Primary 1 Gaelic Medium Primary Schools will generally be immersed in developing their reading, writing, listening and talking and numeracy skills in the medium of Gaelic.

From around Primary 3, children based in Gaelic Medium Primary Schools/classes will also start to develop their skills in reading, writing and listening and talking in the English language. It is expected that by the end of Primary 7, most children who have been based in Gaelic Medium Primary Schools/classes should be achieving Second Level in reading, writing, and listening and talking in both Gàidhlig and English.

For pupils based in Gaelic Medium Primary Schools/classes, the following data has been collected and published for 2016/17:

  • P1 - Reading (Gàidhlig), Writing (Gàidhlig), Listening and Talking (Gàidhlig) only
  • P4 - Reading (Gàidhlig), Writing (Gàidhlig), Listening and Talking (Gàidhlig), numeracy only
  • P7 and S3 – Reading (Gàidhlig and English), Writing (Gàidhlig and English), Listening and Talking (Gàidhlig and English), Numeracy

1.4 Pupils based in special schools/units

Special schools/units cater for children of all ages. The information gathered as part of this return does not include a specific stage for these pupils (i.e. they are recorded as being a pupil based in a special school/unit). Therefore, it is not possible to calculate the percentage of pupils who have achieved the CfE level relevant to their stage.

The data reported shows the overall picture of CfE levels that have been achieved for the pupils based in special schools/units. These data are not included in the headline figures; they are reported in Chapter 9.

1.5 Experimental statistics

Experimental statistics are Official Statistics that are undergoing development. They are defined in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics as: 'new Official Statistics undergoing evaluation that are published in order to involve users and stakeholders in their development as a means to build in quality at an early stage'.

Principle 4, Practice 5 of the Code instructs producers to release experimental statistics to achieve continuous improvement in statistical processes; Protocol 1, Practice 5 states that producers should 'involve users in the evaluation of experimental statistics'. There is an emphasis across the Government Statistical Service (GSS) to consult users during the review of statistics, and to make experimental series available during this period to assist in the quality assurance, development and familiarisation of the statistics.

The Code of Practice for Official Statistics promotes and supports the release of experimental statistics to involve users in their development at an early stage; however, it is likely that the statistics will not be fully compliant in all areas due to their nature as 'data being developed'.

The Scottish Government releases experimental statistics to engage with users and understand their needs as part of compliance with Principle 1 of the Code. The statistics may also be released to help develop methods and improvements in quality under Principle 4 of the Code, and it is important that these developments are fully discussed alongside the statistics. The statistics should always be supported by appropriate guidance and commentary to inform users about their strengths and weaknesses, particularly in relation to use under Principle 8 of the Code (Frankness and Accessibility).

The reason for these statistics being classed as experimental statistics is because they are based on a new and developing data source. As such time is required:

a. To receive informed feedback from users and potential users of the statistics;

b. For users to become familiar with the new statistics and methodology.

1.6 Quality assurance

The collection of these data reflects a developing approach within schools to the assessment of children's progress against CfE levels. It is therefore important to consider whether and how this affects the quality, reliability and usability of the data.

As part of the quality assurance process, feedback was sought from all data suppliers (local authorities and grant-aided schools) on the process of compiling the data and on factors which may affect data quality.

The majority of data providers provided substantive feedback covering the assessment process followed by schools, their own quality assurance of the data and whether they had any outstanding concerns over the quality of the data. Of the data providers that submitted information on data quality, one in three stated that they had no outstanding concerns. Around two in five data providers reported greater levels of confidence in data quality compared to 2015/16 (attributed to more familiarity with benchmarks and better QA processes), and around one in four stated that future work was planned, particularly around further development of moderation activity.

A few data providers indicated that, consistent with this data collection being new and in development, there was evidence some practitioners had underestimated pupil performance.

Based on this information, caution must be applied in interpreting the results in this publication and the published school level data. In particular, comparisons between authorities or between schools should not be made without consideration of the context of the authority or school and the underlying approach to assessment.

For special schools/units, around 17 per cent of pupils were recorded as 'not assessed' (Code 99). It has been reported that some pupils were recorded as 'not assessed' when these pupils are in fact working towards national qualifications and out of scope of this collection on Broad General Education performance. Further work is required to estimate the extent of this issue.

There has been an improved level of coverage for special schools/units compared to 2015/16. In 2015/16 there were data returns for approximately 70 per cent of pupils, compared to approximately 95 per cent for 2016/17.

Another improvement in this year's collection was the inclusion of S3 pupils expected CfE level in reading, writing and listening and talking in Gàidhlig. This was not collected in 2015/16 but has been for 2016/17 to bring it in line with the other English literacy organisers.

At a national level, there has been a notable change in the percentage of pupils reported as achieving Fourth Level in S3. This was 10 percentage points higher than 2015/16 for the literacy organisers and around seven percentage points for numeracy, compared to 2015/16. This is not unexpected in line with feedback from local authorities on their quality assurance procedures and increase in moderation activities.

The expected standards under CfE were embedded in the experiences and outcomes from the outset, however it was clear that further clarity was required. As a result, Education Scotland published draft Curriculum for Excellence Benchmarks for literacy and numeracy in August 2016 in order to provide a more explicit and clear statement of standards. These standards were available to teachers ahead of the data collection for 2016/17.

A new national programme of Quality Assurance and Moderation has been put in place to provide more support and improve confidence and understanding amongst teachers, and in August 2017, Scottish National Standardised Assessments were made available for teachers to help inform their judgements. This is expected to have an impact on the consistency of data in future years.

In 2016/17 there has been more guidance available, more moderation completed by local authorities, a full school year to assess pupils and an increased coverage in this collection for Gaelic Medium schools/classes and special schools/units, that should all have contributed to ongoing improvement in the data quality.

Achievement of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) Levels 2016/17 results continue to be data under development and are not directly comparable to Achievement of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) Levels 2015/16 results.

1.7 Reporting of national data

Chapters 2-7 (national results) and Chapter 10 (local authority results):

  • includes all assessed P1, P4, P7 and S3 pupils attending mainstream schools (including one grant-aided school)
  • excludes pupils attending special schools/units
  • excludes English Medium literacy results for P1 and P4 pupils in Gaelic Medium schools/classes (this data not collected; pupils will be learning in the Gaelic language)
  • includes English Medium literacy results for all assessed P7 and S3 pupils in Gaelic Medium schools/classes
  • includes numeracy results for all assessed P4, P7 and S3 pupils in Gaelic Medium schools/classes .

Chapter 8 – Achievement of CfE levels in Gàidhlig include Gaelic Medium literacy results for P1, P4, P7 and S3 pupils in Gaelic Medium Schools/classes.

Chapter 9 – Achievement of CfE levels of pupils based in special schools/units includes results for all pupils (aged 3 -18) based in special schools/units.



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