Scottish Attainment Challenge - local stretch aims: 2022 to 2023

Summary reflecting local authorities stretch aims for 2022 to 2023 for progress in raising attainment and closing the poverty-related attainment gap.

2022/23 core stretch aims

The stretch aims set by local authorities indicate a key element of their ambitions for recovery and accelerating progress across the country as we collectively work to improve outcomes for children and young people.

The Framework for Recovery and Accelerating Progress asked for ambitions to be set against a baseline of 2020/21 nationally published data in the interests of consistency.

In considering the data over several years it is important to note the impact of the pandemic on children and young people and on attainment data. It is clear that the interruptions to learning stemming from school closures and ongoing impacts of Covid-19 contributed to a lower benchmark for the Achievement of Curriculum for Excellence Level (ACEL) teacher professional judgement data relative to pre-pandemic data. Alongside that, the alternative approach to certification in the senior phase in 2020/21, where exams did not take place and learners' results were based on the professional judgement of teachers based on in-school assessment, contributed to a higher benchmark.

Table 1: estimated Scotland-level aggregation of local authorities' stretch aims

2020/21 published statistics [1]

Aggregated 2022/23 Stretch Aims [2]

Change, 2022/23 compared to 2020/21[3]

Overall (%)

Gap[4] (pp)

Overall (%)

Gap (pp)

Overall aim for progress (pp)

Narrowing of gap (pp)

ACEL - Primary school literacy[5]







ACEL - Primary school numeracy[6]







School leavers, 1 or more pass at SCQF 5 or better







School leavers, 1 or more pass at SCQF 6 or better







Annual Participation Measure (APM)[7]







Achievement of Curriculum for Excellence

For literacy and numeracy in the broad general education, measured by achievement of Curriculum for Excellence levels (ACEL) for primaries 1, 4 and 7 combined, the estimated aggregation of local authorities' stretch aims presents a very positive picture for both recovery and an acceleration of progress.

For both overall attainment and in terms of closing the poverty-related attainment gap in literacy and numeracy, the collective stretch aims of local authorities demonstrate ambitions to work towards achieving the biggest two year improvement recorded since the introduction of the Challenge (in the years for which data is available).

Given the effect of Covid-19 on pupils' achievement of Curriculum for Excellence levels in 2020/21, the aggregation of these aims represents significant local ambition for recovery back to and beyond the national position pre-pandemic.

Senior Phase

Senior phase stretch aims have been set for progress in raising attainment and closing the poverty-related attainment gap, based on the proportion of school leavers attaining one or more passes at SCQF level 5 or better and at SCQF level 6 or better based on the Summary Statistics for Attainment and Initial Leaver Destinations[8] (SSAILD) publication. Local authorities' estimated aggregated stretch aims for these measures are also very positive.

The local authority stretch aims demonstrate a range of ambitions to sustain and exceed the level of attainment and narrowed gap in 2020/21 (both of which were affected by the alternative approaches to certification in 2020 and 2021). The estimated aggregated stretch aims represent ambitions for an acceleration of progress from pre-pandemic levels of attainment and poverty-related attainment gap.

If achieved, they would see overall attainment of one or more pass at SCQF level 5 or better improving from 85.6% in 2015/16 to 89.5% in 2022/23; and one or more pass at SCQF level 6 or better improving from 61.7% in 2015/16 to 68.2% in 2022/23.

For the poverty-related attainment gap, this would be narrower than it has been since the launch of the Scottish Attainment Challenge, narrowing from 20.3 percentage points (pp) in 2015/16 to 16.0pp in 2022/23 at level 5 or better; and narrowing from 38.5pp in 2015/16 to 32.5pp in 2022/23 at level 6 or better.

As highlighted above, given the use of alternative approaches to certification in 2020 and in 2021, particular care must be taken when making comparisons across different years. Interpretation of changes must take full account of the different certification methods used in different years, and changes in the attainment levels in 2019/20 and 2020/21 should not be seen as an indication that performance has improved or worsened, without further evidence.

Further to the aims for attainment recorded through SSAILD, learners in the senior phase are being supported in local settings to achieve a wide range of qualifications and awards that suit their own particular ambitions and pathways – in keeping with the Curriculum for Excellence. These include qualifications such as foundation apprenticeships and national progression awards.

Annual Participation Measure

Local authorities' aims for the Annual Participation Measure (APM) also show ambition for improvement from a generally high starting point.

In terms of the APM, if achieved, the estimated overall improvement implied by the stretch aims would represent the second largest two year improvement observed in the years since the introduction of the Challenge. The largest improvement was observed between 2015/16 and 2017/18.

In terms of the APM poverty-related outcomes gap, if achieved, the estimated narrowing of the gap implied by the stretch aims would be broadly comparable to the improvements observed in most other two year periods since the introduction of the Challenge, therefore seeing improved outcomes and enhanced life chances for young people.

A breakdown of local authorities' aims which underpin the aggregated aims set out above can be found in supplementary tables published alongside this summary document. These supplementary tables display a high level breakdown of local authorities' aims. The education service plans, of which these stretch aims are a part, are (or are scheduled to be) published on local authority websites. These contain a wealth of further context and background on the aims themselves and the plans which underpin them.

As noted above, given the impact of Covid-19, caution should be taken when looking for any trends in data across academic years. Further, local authorities' ambitions are underpinned by a range of factors unique to each local context and therefore direct comparisons should not be made. These include, for example, different concentrations of poverty, different geographies, different demographics, different urban and rural make-ups, varied impacts of Covid-19 on children and young people in different locations and different starting points for recovery and accelerating progress – themselves influenced by factors such as those just listed.

The health and wellbeing measures set by local authorities are varied, given local authorities' various approaches to tracking and monitoring children and young peoples' health and wellbeing. Common measures selected by local authorities are for attendance and participation.



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