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.

The purpose of data collection

Together with the National Improvement Framework Interactive Evidence Report, the NIF has improved the availability, quality and consistency of data, and extended understanding of what works to drive improvements for children and young people across all parts of the Scottish education system.

The Scottish Government recognises that national data needs to provide an accurate understanding of the wide range of learners' achievement, and support a fuller understanding of the gaps in achievement and life chances between different groups of learners and how this is captured across the full learner journey. This helps to support improvement planning at a national and local level.

It is also important to recognise that, in some instances, a key tool for local authorities and schools is local data that may not be appropriate to be collected nationally. To support improvement in our education system, and deliver on the ambition of excellence and equity, decision-makers at all levels need to gain a better understanding of what good teaching is, and how it leads to better learning in schools.

Although national statistics provide helpful information on trends over the long term, national data alone isn't what drives improvement in education systems. For that we need small data based on teachers' professional observations, formative assessments, and reflections of what is happening during teaching and learning. This enables individual learners, their teachers and parents/carers to understand and track progress.

Of particular concern to Audit Scotland was the need for more 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. The report also highlighted a large variation in trends in outcomes across local authority areas, with evidence of worsening performance and/or inconsistent improvement across a range of key indicators in recent years. In order to address the points raised by Audit Scotland, this consultation covers both the wider data that is collected to inform improvement, and how that might be utilised, as well as the key measures.

Data already collected and how it relates to the curriculum

Since the introduction of the National Improvement Framework in 2016, there has been an increase in the data and wider performance information that is collected by the Scottish Government and Education Scotland and published in the National Improvement Framework Interactive Evidence Report (NIFIER). Annex A sets out a range of data that is already available, much of which is already included in the NIF. It demonstrates the wealth of data already being collected, but begs the question of whether we are doing enough to ensure, as recommended by Audit Scotland, that there is greater prominence on these broader outcome measures in public reporting at school, regional, or national level. Some of this wider data is set out below.

HM Inspectors of Education (HMIE)

HMIE carry out independent scrutiny across sectors ranging from early learning and childcare to adult learning. This includes the impact of the approach to wellbeing, equality and inclusion which underpins children and young people's ability to achieve success. While inspections have been paused during COVID-19, HMIE carried out a national overview of practice, supported with case studies and examples of effective practice to support system wide improvement. In addition, recovery visits have taken place with schools and settings, to evaluate the impact of the pandemic on learners' health and wellbeing, teachers' health and wellbeing and the impact of the pandemic on progress and performance outcomes for pupils.

Wider achievements e.g. sporting achievements, music qualifications etc.

Insight is a benchmarking tool designed to help bring about improvements for learners in the senior phase (S4 to S6). It provides schools with information about where a school is having the most success for pupils in the senior phase and also where improvements can be made.

Insight includes attainment achieved through a range of qualifications and providers – not just SQA - reflecting the wider context of the school and the different approaches to the curriculum. However, attainment at school and local authority level reflect the approach to the curriculum. Crucially, access to wider awards provision (Princes Trust, The Duke of Edinburgh's Award, Open University, and Rural and Urban Training Scheme, among others) may not be equal, so it would be difficult to use this data to measure the attainment gap in the same way as for other measures, but the data could be included more widely in the NIF.

Parental Involvement and Engagement Census

The Parental Involvement and Engagement (PIE) Census is being implemented by local authorities in the 2021/22 academic year, following cancellation in 2020/21 due to school building closures as a result of the pandemic.

Additional data to be collected

Work is underway to continue to broaden and expand the data that is gathered to inform the NIF and improvement planning at local level. There are a number of new datasets that could potentially be included in future iterations of the NIF and which are set out below.

Health and Wellbeing Census

The new Health and Wellbeing Census, delivered through local authorities, will give local areas and the Scottish Government important new data about children and young people's wellbeing. The gathering of health and wellbeing evidence at a local level is essential to enable local authorities to identify and drive forward improvement where it is needed, and to monitor whether improvement happens as a result. The data will first and foremost provide local authorities, schools, and community planning partnerships with a consistent evidence base to assess, monitor, and drive forward improvements in the health and wellbeing outcomes of children and young people. This includes monitoring the impact the Covid pandemic has had on children and young people.

School and early learning workforce

We are exploring options to gain better insight into the views and priorities of staff in school and early learning settings who provide support to the learning and teaching process and the wellbeing of children and young people.

PISA 2022

Scotland will again be participating in PISA which provides an additional measure of national performance for Senior Phase (15 year old) pupils over time. It assesses competence in reading, mathematics and science every three years. Results from PISA 2022 - pushed back from 2021 due to the pandemic - will provide us with reliable data on these key areas, comparable to PISA 2018 and previous cycles. PISA's measure of socio-economic background will also allow comparisons of the effect of deprivation on performance.

Engagement with children and young people

We are developing our approach to learner participation and engagement. It is our intention to co-design a more meaningful feedback loop with children and young people, to one that is youth-led and will enable children and young people to be at the heart of policy development within education.

The intention is for children and young people to have a seat at the table, from this, there will be a wealth of qualitative data to support children and young people's priorities and views when it comes to education policy. Although we are unable to say how this new mechanism of engagement will look, until we have been through the co-design process, we do anticipate that there will be opportunities to collect quantitative data in a targeted, co-ordinated and more strategic way.


Our proposals for the key measures are based on a number of key principles:

  • we are looking at the difference in attainment between those children and young people from SIMD quintiles 1 and 5. However, we recognise the importance of increasing attainment for all children and are therefore proposing to recalibrate the national stretch aims for all five SIMD quintiles
  • focusing on a single measure is neither helpful or meaningful and would provide a false and limited picture
  • measures and milestones should be relatively simple to measure and report against
  • there needs to be a clear line of sight from the agreed measures and milestones to the key priorities set out in the National Improvement Framework, including the need to place the human rights and needs of every child and young person at the centre of education
  • there also needs to be a clear line of sight from the key measures in the NIF, to the strategies and approaches adopted in schools, and local authorities, to improve outcomes for children and young people
  • the focus should be across the age ranges – from 3-18
  • they should be a credible set of measures – understood to fairly reflect progress in closing the poverty related attainment gap
  • the need to avoid perverse incentives through whatever milestones or stretch aims are set.



Back to top