Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy 2016: literacy

Literacy results from the 2016 survey which covers assessment of school pupils at various stages in primary and secondary school.

Chapter 1: Introduction

1.1 What is the SSLN?

The Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy ( SSLN) is an annual sample survey which monitors national performance of school children at P4, P7 and S2 in literacy and numeracy in alternate years. The 2016 survey focused on literacy. All mainstream publicly funded and independent schools are invited to participate in the SSLN. For more information on the survey design see Chapter 10: Background Notes.

The SSLN also provides information which informs improvements in learning, teaching and assessment at classroom level through the development of Professional Learning Resources ( PLRs) by Education Scotland. All PLRs are available on the National Improvement Hub.

The SSLN replaced the Scottish Survey of Achievement ( SSA) which ran from 2004 to 2009. The SSLN was developed in 2009 to support assessment approaches for Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), and so results are not comparable with the SSA. The guidance for assessment for CfE is set out in Building the Curriculum 5: A Framework for Assessment and its supporting suite of publications, first published in January 2010.

The SSLN is undertaken in partnership between the Scottish Government, Education Scotland, the Scottish Qualifications Authority ( SQA), the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland ( ADES) and local authorities.

This is the last set of results from the Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy. The replacement data source of pupil performance in literacy and numeracy is the Achievement of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) Levels Return; the results of the 2015/16 collection were published on 13 December 2016. This data collection gathers information for all P1, P4, P7 and S3 pupils and reports on the proportion of pupils who have achieved the expected CfE level relevant to their stage, based on teacher professional judgements, for numeracy and the three elements of literacy (reading, writing, listening and talking). The Achievement of Curriculum for Excellence results were published as experimental statistics to reflect the fact that they are based on a new and developing data source.

Results from the SSLN are not directly comparable to results from the Achievement of Curriculum for Excellence collection, due to the differing methodologies and reporting styles. SSLN results are based on independently marked or assessed performance against a set assessment or task and results are presented by reporting categories (see Table 1.1).

We would like to thank the 10,100 pupils and 4,600 teachers in the 2,250 schools who participated in SSLN 2016.

1.2 Survey components

The 2016 literacy survey assessed all three literacy organisers (reading, writing and listening and talking). The survey consisted of written and practical assessments and pupil and teacher questionnaires. All participating pupils took part in a reading assessment and pupil questionnaire; pupils at half of participating schools were assessed in writing; and pupils at 40 per cent of schools took part in a listening and talking assessment. More detail on the assessments is provided in the relevant chapters.

The assessments used in the survey were designed to assess the wide range of knowledge, skills, capabilities and attitudes across learning identified in the literacy Experiences and Outcomes. They were designed to reflect the requirements that pupils have achieved breadth, challenge and application of learning. The pupil questionnaire collected information on factors that are likely to affect learning, such as pupil attitudes and experience in class. The teacher questionnaire collected information on teachers' experiences of delivering literacy across the curriculum.

Assessment tasks were either specifically developed for the SSLN by practising teachers and assessment experts or, where previous SSA tasks were used or revised, these were reworked and aligned to CfE Levels and experiences and outcomes. The assessments were constructed to include tasks with different degrees of challenge across the range of literacy experiences and outcomes set out by the curriculum at each level.

Pupils were assessed at the following curriculum levels [1] :

P4: First Level (covers P2 to P4, but earlier or later for some)

P7: Second Level (covers P5 to P7, but earlier or later for some)

S2: Third Level (Third and Fourth Level span S1 to S3, but earlier for some)

1.3 Reporting SSLN results

SSLN results are presented by categories for ease of reporting. A summary of the categories used is given in Table 1.1. They refer to performance in the survey and are not meant to be used for general classroom reporting of performance.

Headline reading results are based on pupils performing well or very well at the level. Headline writing and listening and talking results are based on pupils performing well, very well or beyond the level.

Table 1.1: Summary of SSLN reporting categories

Reporting Category

Pupils are:

Performing very well at the level

meeting almost all the outcomes at that level

Performing well at the level

meeting most of the outcomes at that level

Working within the level

meeting some of the expected outcomes for their level, but they are not yet meeting the others

Not yet working within the level

not yet meeting any of the CfE outcomes of the level assessed

In contrast to the SSA, the SSLN does not assess pupils against other levels. For example, although pupils in P4 may be reported as 'performing very well at First Level', it is possible that some may be achieving many of the Second Level outcomes as well; however, the SSLN does not capture this information. The principles of CfE are clear, however, that the curriculum levels are not a barrier to pupils' progression in learning. In progressing through a level pupils must demonstrate breadth and depth of learning and be able to apply their learning in different and unfamiliar contexts.

There are three deprivation categories reported in the SSLN: the least deprived 30 per cent of datazones, the middle 40 per cent and the most deprived 30 per cent. These are based on the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) 2016 and pupils are assigned to a category according to their home postcode.

The SSLN samples a proportion of pupils rather than the whole population, therefore the SSLN results are presented as estimates. There is an element of uncertainty around the estimates and these are denoted by confidence intervals. Where appropriate, confidence intervals are represented on charts by error bars to help demonstrate this level of uncertainty. Statistical tests were used to test for differences between estimates. All references to differences in this report are statistically significant differences. For more information on calculation and interpretation of confidence intervals please see Chapter 10: Background notes.

All SSLN estimates in this report are rounded to zero decimal places. Differences in estimates are calculated using unrounded estimates, therefore apparent differences may differ from actual calculated differences.


Email: Marion MacRury

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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