Education - National Improvement Framework - enhanced data collection: consultation

A consultation which seeks views on improving the collection of education data to assess progress towards closing the poverty-related attainment gap.

Education - National Improvement Framework

A consultation on enhanced data collection for improvement, and the key measures to assess progress towards closing the poverty related attainment gap


In 2021, both the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Audit Scotland published reports which made recommendations relating to data collection and the need to ensure it reflects the ambitions of Curriculum for Excellence.

Audit Scotland recommended that the Scottish Government:

  • "work with stakeholders to develop and publish consistent and robust national data that reflects the ambitions of the national curriculum, national policy priorities such as health and wellbeing and confidence, and key priorities for Covid-19 recovery and improvement.
  • update the NIF to reflect data on these agreed outcomes and consider how to ensure that there is greater prominence on these broader outcome measures in public reporting and messaging, for example by inclusion in the NIF key indicators."

The OECD report says:

  • "It is also important to recognise that the broad aims of CfE and the four purposes require considering the influence of the wider context in their accomplishment. Scotland should define indicators or a "matrix of success" aligned to the vision and four capacities to help understand students' progress across all four capacities. In addition to the National Improvement Framework's measures of literacy and numeracy, other metrics informing progress on the four capacities are necessary, especially around health and well-being, enjoyment of learning and other key competencies."

In light of these recommendations, there are two areas of focus for this consultation paper:

  • how to ensure that the basket of key measures to assess progress towards closing the poverty related attainment gap reflects the wider ambitions of the curriculum, and
  • the value of the wider data for improvement purposes, both qualitative and quantitative, and the range of data needed by schools, education authorities and at the national level in order to fulfil their different requirements.

The results of this consultation will also inform the plans for a national discussion on the vision for Scottish education, which is being taken forward in response to the recommendation in Professor Ken Muir's report Putting Learners at the Centre: Towards a Future Vision for Scottish Education, that:

  • The Scottish Government should initiate a national discussion on establishing a compelling and consensual vision for the future of Scottish education … in particular the importance of placing the learner at the centre of all decisions. The vision for Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) should be considered as part of this discussion as should consideration of how the education system seeks to address the purposes described in Article 29 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

The national discussion will include wider consideration of how to measure the effectiveness of the curriculum as a whole, as recommended by the OECD.


The primary purpose of the National Improvement Framework (NIF) since its introduction in January 2016 has been to bring together an enhanced range of information and data at all levels of the system, to drive improvement for children and young people in early learning and childcare settings, schools, and colleges across the whole of Scotland. The Scottish Attainment Challenge has also become a rich source of information about good practice in schools, and how high-quality teaching and learning delivers improvements in outcomes.

The NIF already contains a wider range of data than is often reported, but more needs to be done to ensure that this wider data is in use across the education system, and that these wider measures are valued as equally as traditional attainment measures.

The key measures set out in the NIF (and the national stretch aims linked to them) are only one part of this data and were identified in order to assess progress towards closing the poverty related attainment gap.

Key measures

In the 2018 NIF and Improvement Plan, we set out our approach to measuring the poverty related attainment gap between children and young people from the least and most disadvantaged communities. After a formal consultation process, we identified eleven key measures to assess progress, and a further fifteen sub-measures that reflect the key stages of the learner journey and the breadth of issues that can impact on attainment. Together these provide a wide range of measures covering school leaver attainment, and literacy and numeracy, but also other, broader, measures such as health and wellbeing, school attendance rates and school leaver destinations.

The full range of NIF key measures and sub-measures are listed below.

Key measures


27-30 month review (Children showing no concerns across all domains)

P1 – Literacy

HWB: Children total difficulties score (age 4-12)

P4 – Literacy

HWB: Children total difficulties score (age 13&15)

P7 – Literacy

Primary – Literacy (P1, P4, P7 combined)

P1 – Numeracy

Secondary Literacy (S3, 3rd level or better)

P4 – Numeracy

Primary – Numeracy (P1, P4, P7 combined)

P7 – Numeracy

Secondary Numeracy (S3, 3rd level or better)

HWB: 27-30 month review uptake

SCQF 4 or above (one or more on leaving school)

HWB: Mental wellbeing score: 13 year old boys

SCQF 5 or above (one or more on leaving school)

HWB: Mental wellbeing score: 13 year old girls

SCQF 6 or above (one or more on leaving school)

HWB: Mental wellbeing score: 15 year old boys

Participation measure

HWB: Mental wellbeing score: 15 year old girls

Primary attendance rates

Secondary attendance rates

Primary exclusion rates (rates per 1000 pupils)

Secondary exclusion rates (rates per 1000 pupils)

In terms of the existing key measures and sub-measures, we propose to retain the existing eleven key measures to ensure that we do not lose the consistent time series which is crucial for tracking the trends and changes in the data on closing the attainment gap over time. So this consultation is about which additional measures it would be appropriate to include in order to ensure that the basket of key measures includes data on wider outcomes as well as attainment.

Stretch aims – national and local

Closing the poverty related attainment gap remains a top priority for this Government - we want every child to have a fair chance in life, and we know that a good education is the foundation of that. Pre-pandemic, the poverty related attainment gap was closing, but the negative impact of the pandemic cannot be ignored and this remains a complex and long-term endeavour. While there have been positive indications of progress, there are also variations in the pace of that progress across the country (as highlighted in the Audit Scotland report) and we know that the impact of COVID-19 is likely to have placed further pressure on the gap. Through the refreshed Scottish Attainment Challenge, we are working with the system to support education recovery, accelerate progress towards closing the attainment gap, and deliver on the mission of the Scottish Attainment Challenge "to use education to improve outcomes for children and young people impacted by poverty, with a focus on tackling the poverty related attainment gap".

This refreshed programme will also aim to tackle variation in outcomes for young people across the country.

We will, therefore, develop a national picture of the ambition for progress across the system by aggregating the ambitious, locally identified, stretch aims for progress towards the mission of the Scottish Attainment Challenge set by all local authorities, in line with the Framework for Recovery and Accelerating Progress. In doing so, we will recognise the impact of the pandemic on children and young people's attainment, and on their health and wellbeing, and understand the scale of the challenge to recover and improve from there.

The current national stretch aims are set out in the 2018 National Improvement Framework, and these will be recalibrated to take into account the impact of the pandemic, as well as the stretch aims set locally in line with the Framework for Recovery and Accelerating Progress.



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