Appendix 2: Timing of assessments and factors influencing attainment
SNSA are designed to allow children and young people to be assessed at any time in the school year that is deemed suitable for the school, class and individual learner. A consequence of the flexible timing is that, when interpreting the results of the assessment at individual, class, school or local authority level, the time in the school year that the assessment was done needs to be taken into account.
There is clear evidence from the norming studies conducted during the course of the 2017 to 2018 academic year, in November and March, and from the whole year’s attainment levels per stage, that children’s and young people’s capacity, on average, develops progressively in their literacy and numeracy skills, knowledge and understanding, as measured by SNSA, over the 10 (effective) months of an academic year. Amongst the year groups presenting for SNSA, children in Primary 1 showed a marked increase in capacity in both literacy and numeracy when comparing results from 2017 (August to December) with those from 2018 (January onwards). The same pattern was observed for Primary 4, Primary 7 and Secondary 3, across all subject areas, but with diminishing increases in performance in 2018, for each successive year group. Within each year group, the rate of improvement between the first half and second half of the 2017 to 2018 academic year was similar, regardless of subject area. The only exception to this general pattern of improvement from 2017 to 2018 was for S3 reading, where the overall result was the same.
While the findings described above might be as expected, they are also reassuring, in that they appear to demonstrate empirically that, overall, children’s and young people’s literacy and numeracy do progress over the course of a school year. However, given the possibility of administering SNSA at any time during the school year, results from all learners should be interpreted with some caution when making any comparative judgements about individuals or groups. Sections 2, 3 and 4 include details of the changes in performance evidenced by the two norming studies. However, for ease of understanding, reporting on performance by organisers and learner characteristics, which is displayed later in each subject-area section, draws on data from the whole year. As such, when reviewing the information in these latter parts of each section, consideration should be given to the information that the norming studies provide regarding changes in performance between the first and second halves of the year.