Uses of school education statistics

The main use of Scottish school statistics is in informing the Scottish Government, monitoring the overall system as well as individual policies and local level performance.

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The main use of Scottish School Statistics is in informing the Scottish Government, monitoring the overall system as well as individual policies and local level performance.

The Scottish Government has set a series of high level National Indicators. For the school system the indicators include “increasing the proportion of young people in learning, training or work”, as measured by the Leavers’ Destinations Follow-up Survey. Scotland also participates in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Achievement (PISA) which provides an international benchmark of performance amongst 15 year-olds, with the Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy and SQA achievement statistics also providing year-on-year monitoring of academic performance.

The performance of the system in reflecting government priorities is also monitored by such statistics as class sizes, teacher numbers, school meal uptake and the condition ratings of school buildings.

Equality issues are also addressed by linkage of these analyses to pupil characteristics from the pupil census, covering ethnicity, gender, disability, additional support needs, and deprivation.

Much of the analysis feeds into the general development of policy, but very specific policy decisions that depend heavily on statistics include the allocation of funding, modelling of implications of class size changes, costings input to negotiations on teacher pay and conditions, teacher workforce planning, decisions on school closures and rebuilding projects, and modelling the implications of increasing school meal eligibility.

There is a legislative requirement for the Scottish Government to collect and publish data annually on pupils with additional support needs [section 23 of the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2009]. This covers the number of pupils with additional support needs, reasons for support, type of support and the cost of providing that support.

Statistics on SQA exam results and attendance rates are used in the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation, a widely used area-based deprivation ranking.

A range of Scottish School Statistics are used in resource allocation. The principal local government finance settlement, which provides a major proportion of local authority funding and has a bearing on council tax levels, includes a large element distributed on the basis of pupil numbers, school size, free school meal registrations and school meal uptake.

Scottish Schools Statistics are used widely by the Scottish Parliament in holding the government to account. Publications are made readily available to the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (the parliament’s library), where they are used in the preparation of briefing documents for MSPs. Statistics are also regularly used to answer parliamentary questions, either by reference to published data or with new analysis.

Scottish School Statistics are also widely used by other public bodies.

In particular Education Scotland use a large amount of pupil census, SQA performance, and leaver destinations information supplied by the Scottish Government, during school inspections. Data on school size, location and free school meal registrations are used to determine suitable comparator schools for each school in Scotland, assisting their monitoring of school performance.

Similarly local authorities use exam results, leaver data and pupil census information in monitoring school performance. This information is also widely used within schools in the form of very low level analysis of results through the Insight tool.

Teacher workforce projections based on the results of the teacher and pupil censuses.

Pupil numbers from the Pupil Census are used by National Records of Scotland in validating local area population estimates.

A range of Scottish School Statistics are provided to the UK government, the EU and OECD for the production of international statistical publications. For example, the OECD’s “Education at a Glance” provides a rich, comparable and up-to-date array of indicators on systems enabling countries to see themselves in the light of other countries’ performance.

Information is made available to parents and the wider public principally through web-based publications, either directly from the government’s website or as reported via the media, as well as through dedicated websites such as Parentzone Scotland and Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics, and through school handbooks.

Surveys of the public to find out how they use Scottish School Statistics have not been carried out, but it is reasonable to assume that they are used to assess the performance of the Scottish education system and the central and local governments responsible for it, particularly in terms of exam results, leaver destinations, attendance and exclusions rates, the condition of school buildings and the relative performance of Scotland in PISA. In the past the media have also widely reported statistics on the multicultural nature of Scotland’s schools, based on data from the pupil census.

At a more local level, school-level statistics are used in Parentzone Scotland, a searchable directory of schools, which parents can use to find statistics on attainment, leaver destinations, literacy and numeracy, and a set of background information on the school. As well as offering information on every local primary, secondary and special school in Scotland, Parentzone Scotland also contains information and advice to support learning from early years to beyond school, learning at home, and enhanced support for parents of children with additional support needs. The information is designed to help parents better understand Scottish education and to encourage more dialogue with staff in schools.

Schools are legally required to publish a set of statistics in their School Handbooks. Some of these statistics are centrally collated and published on our website. Schools may make use of these in order for the required national data to be included. Handbooks and the statistics they contain are designed to inform parents and potential parents about the performance of the school.

Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics is a widely used government website. It is the main way in which the Scottish Government disseminates the range of small area statistics including information on health, education, poverty, unemployment, housing, population, crime and social / community issues at the data zone level and above which support a number of the Government’s targets and commitments aimed at closing the gap between disadvantaged areas and the rest of Scotland. It includes statistics on pupil numbers, pupil characteristics, attendance, qualifications and leaver destinations.

The Education Analytical Services Division seeks to assist partners and researchers, where possible, in using Scottish School Statistics in statistical analysis and research which helps to inform policy development and contribute to improving outcomes for Scotland’s people. While much of our data is restricted due to disclosure issues, it is possible to enter into a data-sharing agreement allowing the use of datasets in a secure environment.  Sharing and linkage of data is done under the strict control of the Scottish Government and is consistent with our data policy.  This ensures that no individual level data is made public and that the data will not be used to take any actions in respect of an individual. 

Further information on how to access our data.

On occasion, to support better decisions and policy making, data may be linked to information from other sources.  Any data linkage undertaken is carried out within the framework of the National Data Linkage Guiding Principles.  For example, we supply anonymised data to the Scottish Longitudinal Study, a dataset which includes a large sample of the Scottish population and links together various demographic, socio-economic and health data about these individuals. The data are available to academics and support is provided free of charge by a team of researchers.

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