Scottish Attainment Challenge: framework for recovery and accelerating progress

A Framework to support schools, local authorities and others across the education system to support educational recovery and increase progress in improving outcomes for children and young people impacted by poverty.

Annex A: Key considerations and templates for setting stretch aims

When setting stretch aims, local authorities are asked to consider the following:

  • Previous years' ACEL, Insight and Annual Participation Measure data, considering:
    • ACEL data since 2016/17
    • Insight data since 2017/18 (on the basis that that is what is available on the Insight platform)
    • APM data since 2016
  • When reviewing those data, consider average annual improvements, and best annual improvements.
  • The different approaches to certification employed by the SQA during the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • The existing stretch aims for 2022/23 and how progress over three years can be made.
  • The impact of Covid-19 on data and on children and young people.
  • The impact of the cost of living crisis on children, young people and their families.
  • The increased impact that local approaches and interventions for equity are expected to have on children and young people's attainment and health and wellbeing.
  • Virtual comparators and/or progress/ambitions of comparable local authorities; or neighbouring local authorities in RICs.
  • A range of local contextual factors.

This is not an exhaustive list.


Stretch aims should be presented in the below template when submitted to Scottish Government. This template will show a local authority's overall stretch aim for 2025/26, supported by an annual trajectory for progress in 2023/24 and 2024/25. The trajectory for progress can be broad aims (i.e. a window to assure the local authority they are on track), whilst the 2025/26 stretch aims should be a specific aim rather than a range (e.g. for a gap to narrow to 6pp in 2025/26).

Core stretch aim
Annual Trajectory Overall levels SIMD Quintile 1 SIMD Quintile 5 Gap (Q1 – Q5)
2025/26 Stretch aim

Additional information and rationale for aims (maximum 300 words )

Space for local authorities to recognise trends over time, patterns (or lack of) in any section of data, reflections on outlying influences which would explain significant aspects of the data e.g. COVID-19 or if there are significant variances in performance due to cohort size where numbers of young people in either Q1 or Q5 differ significantly.


Some exemplars of what these might look like are set out below.

ACEL Numeracy combined P1, P4 & P7
Annual Trajectory Overall levels SIMD Quintile 1 SIMD Quintile 5 Gap (Q1 – Q5)
2023-24 80-84% 76-80% 85-87% 11-5pp
2024-25 83-87% 79-84% 86-88% 9-2pp
2025-26 Stretch aim 88% 86% 92% 6pp

Additional information (maximum 300 words )

The ACEL Numeracy combined P1. P4 & P7 stretch aims for 2026, are ambitious and clearly demonstrate improvement overtime. The pattern emerging pre-pandemic demonstrates improving results both in overall levels and in narrowing the poverty- related attainment gap. However, this pattern has been interrupted due to Covid-19, although the gap has remained similar.

Pre-covid levels were on average 80%, with the highest overall at 82% in 2017-18. Post covid saw the results decreasing from 81% in 2018-19 down to 75% in 2020-21. In 2021-22, attainment rose from 75% to 77%. If accelerated progress continues each year within the parameters of between 3pp and 4pp, the expectation will see overall levels of 88% by 2026.

In 2016-17 the poverty-related attainment gap was 15pp, narrowing by 4pp to 11pp by 2022. If levels of attainment from Q1 and Q5 continues to increase as suggested above, then the predicted 2026 aim would result in a narrowing of the gap over the next three years by 11pp to 6pp.

1+@ Level 5 (all SCQF)
Annual Trajectory Overall levels Quintile 1 Quintile 5 Gap (Q1 – Q5)
2023-24 91-93% 84-86% 95-97% 13pp-9pp
2024-25 92-94% 86-89% 96-98% 12pp-9pp
2025-26 Stretch aim 94% 89% 98% 9pp

Additional information (maximum 300 words )

Overall attainment has improved since 2017/18. The biggest annual increase was 1.8pp in 2021/22. The aim would be to improve attainment by a further 3.1pp between 2022 and 2026 whilst improving Q1 attainment by 6.9pp during that same period. Q5 attainment is set to improve by 2.7pp, which is close to overall attainment level targets. A number of level 5 projects were introduced during 2022/23 and should result in the greatest impact on Q1 attainment by around 2-3pp annually against 1pp targets for overall and Q5 levels.

Annual Participation Measure
Annual Trajectory Overall levels Quintile 1 Quintile 5 Gap (Q1 – Q5)
2023-24 91-92% 85-87% 94-96% 11-7pp
2024-25 92-93% 86-88% 95-96% 10-7pp
2025-26 Stretch aim 93% 88% 96% 8pp

Additional information (maximum 300 words )

The local authority has set a stretch aim target of 93% for 2025-26 which is 2.5pp higher than their highest overall level of 90.5% recorded in 2021-22. The local authority also aims to close the gap between most and least deprived young adults (16-19 year olds) participating in education, training or employment to 8pp by 2025-26 which is 2.4pp improvement on the gap of 10.4 pp recorded in 2021-22.



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