Achievement of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) Levels 2017-18

This contains the results of the achievement of curriculum for excellence (CFE) levels 2017/2018.

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 third 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 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 2018.  This year the achievement of ‘literacy’ is also included in the publication (English and Gàidhlig).  For more information see section

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, in all schools (mainstream and special), 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, standardised assessments and assessing children and young people’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.

The diagram below shows the five curriculum levels:[1] 

The five curriculum levels

The Senior Phase is for young people aged 15-18 and is designed to build on the experiences and outcomes of the Broad General Education, and to allow young people to take qualifications and courses that suit their ability and interests.

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 is collected and published:

  • 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 6.

It has been reported that some pupils in special schools/units 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.  It is proposed to add a new category to allow special schools/units to report on pupils working towards national qualifications. 

1.5 Experimental statistics

Experimental statistics are Official Statistics that are undergoing development.  They are defined in the Code of Practice for Statistics as: ‘A subset of newly developed or innovative official statistics undergoing evaluation.  Experimental statistics are developed under the guidance of the Head of Profession for Statistics and are published in order to involve users and stakeholders in the assessment of their suitability and quality at an early stage’.

Section V4.2 of the Code states ‘Statistics producers should consider testing and releasing new official statistics initially as experimental statistics, under the guidance of the Chief Statistician/Head of Profession for 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 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.  The statistics may also be released to help develop methods and improvements in quality, 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.

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.

1.6.1 Assessment of children’s progress against CfE levels

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.  Final versions of the benchmarks were published in June 2017.

A 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.  

1.6.2 Data supplier feedback

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 any outstanding concerns over the quality of the data.  Of the 30 local authorities that submitted information on data quality, over a third reported that they were generally confident in the robustness of their ACEL data.  Around half of local authorities have increased levels of confidence compared to previous years, but reported some ongoing concerns around data consistency.  Three local authorities reported challenges in determining achievement of Fourth Level, a further three reported concerns regarding S3 data in general.

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.  

Achievement of CfE Level data continue to be data under development and caution should be applied when making comparisons to previous Achievement of CfE Level results. 

1.7 Reporting of national data

Chapters 2-6 (national results) and Chapter 7 (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 is 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 5 – Achievement of CfE levels in Gàidhlig include Gaelic medium literacy results for P1, P4, P7 and S3 pupils in Gaelic medium schools/classes.

Chapter 6 – Achievement of CfE levels of pupils based in special schools/units includes results for all pupils (aged 3 -18) based in special schools/units.

Figures in this report are generally rounded to zero decimal places.  Differences are calculated based on unrounded estimates, therefore reported figures in the commentary may differ from figures apparent from tables and charts. 



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