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 8: Background notes

8.1 Sources, coverage and methodology 

8.1.1 Sources

The data included in the publication are provided to Scottish Government by local authorities and grant-aided schools.  Independent schools are not included in the data collection.  The assessments of children’s progress are undertaken by teachers in schools.  A copy of the specification issued to data providers can be found here.

The ACEL census date was Tuesday 11 June 2018.  Data was submitted by local authorities to Scottish Government by Friday 31 August 2018.  A process of quality assurance between Scottish Government, local authorities and schools occurs before the producing of these statistics. 

8.1.2 Coverage

The data covers pupils in Primary 1, Primary 4, Primary 7 and Secondary 3 in mainstream schools and all pupils based in special schools/units.  Data was provided for 221,327 pupils.  Teacher judgements cover the four organisers of reading, writing, and listening and talking and numeracy.  The data relate to achievement as at June 2018 (at, or near, the end of the 2017/18 school year).  Mainstream pupils for whom the teacher has been unable to make a professional judgement are not included in the published results (one per cent of pupils).

A very small percentage of children have long-term significant and complex additional support needs that mean that it is unlikely they will progress through the CfE levels during their time in education.  These children are included within the data as ‘pupil following individual milestones’.

There has been continual improvement of level of coverage for special schools/units.  In 2017/18, the coverage was approximately 98 per cent compared to approximately 95 per cent for 2016/17 and 70 per cent in 2015/16.

8.1.3 Methodology Literacy variable and P1, P4, P7 combined

The publication tables this year includes two new variables: P1, P4 and P7 combined and literacy. 

P1, P4 and P7 combined figures have been available on the school level dashboard since 2015/16 to provide data for small schools (where data for individual stages would be disclosive).  P1, P4 and P7 combined figures are now available at local authority and national level for comparison purposes.

The literacy variable has been created from the literacy organisers: reading, writing and listening and talking (see Chapter 2).  A pupil is deemed to have achieved the expected level in literacy if they have achieved the expected level in all three literacy organisers: reading, writing, listening and talking.  Pupils will not be included in this calculation, if Code 99 ‘Not Assessed’ has been reported in one or more of the organisers.  This literacy variable is used within the National Improvement Framework (NIF) basket of measures of the attainment gap. Data matching

To reduce burden on data providers, as per the Code of Practice for Statistics, pupil characteristic information was added to the ACEL data by using previously collected data: Pupil Census 2017.  The following variables were added:

  • Ethnicity
  • Additional Support Needs
  • English as an Additional Language 

The Pupil Census data was then linked to the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation 2016 (SIMD) and the 6-fold Urban Rural Classification 2016.  Around three per cent of records could not be matched to the SIMD or the Urban Rural Classification; these are presented under category ‘Unknown’ in the publication tables.

In 2017/18, an improvement in the data linking process between ACEL data and Pupil Census data was implemented, the percentage of unmatched records reduced from around three per cent to one per cent.  As a result, the number of records in the Unknown category reduced by about 70 per cent). 

Pupil Census data is from September 2017, and ACEL data is at June 2018; between these two dates there may be geographic movement of pupils between schools that will not be captured by this linkage.  Initial analysis to determine the extent of this found that less than five per cent of pupils moved home postcode which resulted in a change in SIMD quintile between 2016/17 ACEL data (matched to Pupil Census 2016) and Pupil Census 2017 data. 

8.2 School level data

School level results are also being published alongside this publication.  They are available online via this link.  Data will be published for all publicly funded primary and secondary schools (but not special schools) subject to data protection limitations. 

All school level results will be presented in ten per cent bandings (i.e. under 10 per cent, 10 per cent – under 20 per cent, … , 90 per cent or more).  To prevent potential disclosure of information relating to individual pupils, any results relating to a grouping of 20 pupils or fewer will be suppressed.  This means that around 19 per cent of primary schools and four per cent of secondary schools will have no information published for them.  

As with the national and local authority level data, all school results include ‘Pupil following individual milestones’.  However, children who were recorded as ‘Not Assessed’ are not included in the calculations.

The quality limitations described in section 1.6 also apply to school level data.  There is greater likelihood that an individual school’s results are affected by variations in assessment approach, socio-economic context and school size (for example) than is the case at the more aggregated local authority or Scotland level.  On that basis, we would advise against making direct comparisons between schools.  The publication online does not allow direct, on-screen comparisons of schools.

8.3 Supplementary tables

The collection involves a large amount of data, which cannot be summarised in this publication.  This report seeks to highlight the key messages and give a flavour of the range of analysis possible.  Detailed tables are published as supporting tables alongside this publication, and provide a fuller picture of the findings.  As with school level information, a disclosure control policy was applied to supplementary tables.

Historic data can be found:

8.4 Revisions policy

Data submission for the latest year can identify required revisions for previously submitted data.  Scottish Government will revise the previous years’ results at the time of publication of the latest years’ results.  Data revisions must be received by October for inclusion in the next publication.  This year there have been no revisions submitted.

Achievement of Curriculum for Excellence Level, 2015/16 data has been revised and new supplementary tables published in 2016/17 following receipt of revised data from two local authorities and a minor coding revision for two special schools.  (See Achievement of Curriculum for Excellence Level, 2016/17 for details).

No revisions to 2016/17 have been required. 

8.5 Comparability 

England, Wales and Northern Ireland also report on literacy and numeracy performance based on teacher judgements, however, due to the differing education systems and curriculums, direct comparisons should not be made.



Northern Ireland: 

Scotland participates in the OECD’s triennial Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey.  This assessment is carried out by 15 year-olds in over sixty countries, including all OECD countries, and as such is a key international benchmark of performance.  The result of most recent PISA survey is available here.

8.6 Further information on attainment

There is a range of other reliable information on the performance of Scotland’s school pupils.

The Scottish Government publishes analysis of school leaver attainment (qualifications) and destinations.  The latest data is available at:

Further assessment and attainment information on schools can be found on the Scottish Government Education dashboards page.

For updates on new education statistics, any forthcoming changes to education statistical publications and stakeholder consultations please register with Scotstat at the following website: 

Media enquiries about the information in this Statistics Publication Notice should be addressed to: Michael Berry, Tel: +44(0) 131 244 2967



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