Category Archives: Attainment

The Scottish Attainment Challenge within overall school improvement

By Graeme Logan, Strategic Director, Education Scotland

We have a once in a career opportunity to make a significant breakthrough for children living in poverty in Scotland through the Scottish Attainment Challenge (SAC). The areas for improvement highlighted in our recent report ‘Quality and improvement in Scottish education 2012-2016’ (QuISE) report are all very relevant to our national mission to close the poverty-related attainment gap and to strive for excellence and equity for every child in Scotland.

SAC, including the Pupil Equity Fund (PEF), gives us the additional resources to transform children’s progress and attainment. I know that many headteachers I speak to are excited about the possibilities. They are also keen to make sure we make the best use of these resources.

At Education Scotland we aim to provide you with the best possible advice on what works. In addition to the inspection evidence in QuISE, our advice includes access to a Scottish version of the Education Endowment Foundation’s Learning and Teaching Toolkit, and also our own Interventions for Equity, which shares a range of interesting examples and approaches from Scottish schools which have been involved with the SAC programmes.

Other significant changes we have introduced this year will also help. These include clarity on the model of assessment for the broad general education, which is teacher judgement of children’s achievement of Curriculum for Excellence levels, informed by a range of evidence and high quality moderation.  This demonstrates the value and trust placed in our teachers to make overall judgements about children’s progress. In doing this, teachers helped us to create the new Benchmarks for literacy and numeracy, which clarify the national standard for the achievement of each level.

We are taking a broad definition of the attainment gap and are not just considering statistics on overall attainment in isolation. If we are to achieve the vision of Curriculum for Excellence we need to think about achievement in a range of areas too. Earlier this year I spoke to around 2,000 headteachers from every part of the country in a series of events. We encouraged them to think about the attainment gap in the context of five key areas:

  • Attendance
  • Attainment
  • Exclusion
  • Engagement
  • Participation

The first three may seem more obvious and in some respects easier to measure. However, engagement and participation are equally as important for children’s progress and development. Some schools have started to track all five areas, for example, observing the extent of children’s active engagement in learning through use of tools such as the Leuven Scale of Engagement.  They have also started to track the extent to which children participate in the school’s wider curriculum and wider offer.

Schools will not be able to make the breakthrough we want to see for children living in poverty on their own. Many third sector and partner organisations are making a major contribution to improving children’s progress and engagement, and there are examples on the National Improvement Hub; type ‘Scottish Attainment Challenge’ into the search box to see all our resources.

One of the most important partnerships is that with families and communities. In the first year of the Challenge this was the area in which we saw least activity, and we’re actively looking at how we can change that. Our Review of Family Learning provides a good evidence base and recommendations for ways in which family learning can be developed within communities.

With inspection looking at attainment (QI 3.2) from August, including how schools are using PEF to close the gap, now is a good time to self-evaluate your approach to attainment. We will be particularly interested in the rationale and initial decision making for the use of PEF, as we believe that this will be key to ensuring that the most effective interventions are selected for each individual school and community context.

Online collaboration is also a key feature of the Scottish Attainment Challenge. Our Yammer group on Glow for headteachers has over 1,000 members! The largest ever online collaboration between Scottish headteachers. My keynote presentation from the pupil equity conferences is available on the Yammer group. Further key materials will be shared through the Yammer group too. I am currently preparing a keynote presentation for our September Curriculum for Excellence conferences for headteachers. During this presentation I will discuss ways in which curriculum flexibility and curriculum design can be used to close the gap. I will also share the most effective approaches attainment advisors have shared and also draw on the key strengths from schools where HM Inspectors have evaluated the new QI on raising attainment and achievement.

Closing the poverty-related attainment gap is a national endeavour and something which many teachers feel passionate about. For many the main reason they entered the profession was to make the biggest difference to children’s chances in life, particularly those who live in poverty. Reflecting on QuISE’s five priorities for improvement, as well as the specific focuses of SAC, will help ensure the success of our drive to remove the pattern between lower attainment and living in poverty.

QuISE’s five improvement priorities are an excellent place to start.

Using evidence to improve outcomes in secondary

By Carol McDonald, HM Inspector and Lead Officer for secondary inspection

Time to reflect on inspection evidence is always an interesting and key part of our work. Reviewing our findings for the recent report ‘Quality and improvement in Scottish education 2012 – 2016’ (QuISE) highlighted some important strengths in the secondary sector over a period with significant changes to the curriculum.

Inspectors appreciate the opportunity inspection offers to engage in dialogue with staff, parents, partners of the school and the young people themselves.   We learn a great deal from our discussions which informs many aspects of our work.

You can read the secondary chapter from QuISE on our website.  In secondary schools, inspectors found the curriculum in most schools evolving as new qualifications replaced old ones. Much of the work in schools focused on implementing new qualifications and increasing the range of accreditation available to young people in the senior phase.

Staff in schools recognised that to continue to improve attainment, improvements to learning pathways from S1 to S3 are required. Young people are well supported by the good relationships they enjoy with their teachers. However, too much variability was observed in the quality of learning and teaching.  Schools need to continue to work to ensure staff share a good understanding of the best features of effective practice.

Our evidence shows that schools need to use the wide range of evidence available to ensure that school improvement planning is manageable and achievable. The evidence from Insight, and from teacher’s professional judgements on the progress of young people, needs better used to inform improvement planning.

Schools are working effectively with partners to develop the young workforce using a range of innovative approaches. Senior staff in schools are using the Career Education Standard 3-18 (CES), the Work Placement Standard (WPS) and Guidance on School/Employer Partnerships as a platform to promote and develop DYW in their schools.  The use of the standards and the guidance to align and co-ordinate activity is still at an early stage.  Teaching staff, young people and employers are not yet aware of the entitlements and the expectations within the standards and guidance.

Our inspections in the current academic year show improvements in arrangements for assessing and tracking the progress of young people across all aspects of their learning. Using this evidence to implement appropriate interventions for individuals is key to improving outcomes for young people.  Collating the evidence at a department, faculty and whole school level allows staff to analyse and act upon necessary improvements.   Central to this work is the reliability of the assessment evidence.  We are seeing teachers beginning to make good use of the benchmarks to support them in this essential work.

In the best examples, schools are identifying, and taking account of, a range of features which may influence outcomes for young people. This includes factors such as being “looked after” (LAC), living in areas of social deprivation (SIMD 1 and 2) and having identified additional support requirements.  These factors need taken into account when planning learning for young people.

As staff continue to work hard in the interests of their pupils, they recognise that they are part of a wider team of adults that provide the necessary support to help young people succeed. It is good to see, and hear about, the successes of schools in improving outcomes for the young people in their community.

As we look ahead to next year’s inspections, I look forward to seeing these areas develop further, helping improve attainment for our young people.

Tackling the priorities in QuISE – a joined up approach?

 

By Alan Armstrong, Strategic Director

Our report ‘Quality and improvement in Scottish education 2012-2016’ (QuISE) points to five key aspects of education and practice which we believe should be priorities for improvement if all learners in Scotland are to achieve their potential. Many or all sectors of education should be:

  • exploiting fully the flexibility of Curriculum for Excellence to meet better the needs of all learners;
  • improving arrangements for assessment and tracking to provide personalised guidance and support throughout the learner journey;
  • maximising the contribution of partnerships with other services, parents and the wider community to enhance children’s and young people’s learning experiences;
  • improving further the use of self-evaluation and improvement approaches to ensure consistent high quality of provision; and
  • growing a culture of collaboration within and across establishments and services to drive innovation, sharing of practice and collective improvement.

Looking at these priorities from my perspective in ensuring the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence, the employability and skills agenda, and digital learning and teaching, I am struck by how the priorities inter-relate and, indeed, are interdependent.

The flexibility offered by CfE has the potential for schools to design their curriculum structures in ways that reflect fully the local contexts and aspirations of their learners. Within this, the range of progression pathways can then enable children and young people to make suitably brisk progress across the broad general education, and into and through the senior phase.  This needs to be informed by improved assessment and tracking to ensure teachers, learners and parents make the most appropriate decisions at the right time.

However, there is no doubt that the curriculum structures needed to make this a reality rely very strongly on the direct contributions of partners, including agencies and local employers. Collaborations amongst staff within and across schools, with colleagues in colleges, community learning and development and other areas of expertise all combine to enrich the curriculum and motivate learners.

In early learning and childcare provision, primary and secondary schools, the new curriculum area Benchmarks are beginning to support a clearer understanding of learners’ progression across the broad general education. This  will help teachers to plan the breadth, challenge and application of learning that will prepare young people for the three year learner journey of their senior phase.  And that of course involves collaborations and the wide range of qualifications across the SCQF framework, exploiting again the flexibility of CfE in preparing learners for their futures.

Partnerships are the essential element in Developing the Young Workforce. I’m becoming aware of increasingly effective approaches to employability, skills and career education, often promoted through three-ways partnerships amongst schools, colleges and employers.  And by now you’ll be seeing the connections with the other QuISE priorities of collaboration and more informed personal guidance that can help to exploit that full flexibility in CfE.

Digital learning and teaching has great potential to promote and improve partnership working and collaboration, locally, nationally and internationally. Teachers and pupils can gain significantly in learning from the innovative and effective practice of others.  Where digital is central in planning and delivering learning and teaching, and makes use of learners’ own digital skills or develops them further, I’m in no doubt that young people benefit.  Digital can and does support teachers in their tracking and monitoring, reducing bureaucracy and workload.  As digital access and digital skills continues to improve, the opportunities for leaders, practitioners and learners to take steps that address the QuISE priorities are significant.

The individual QuISE chapters on each education sector highlight good practice as well as challenges in providing high quality experiences for all. The key is often the distinct professionalism of leaders and practitioners, engaging individually and collaboratively to reflect and to make the changes that matter.

Finally, effective self-evaluation is central to ensuring continuous improvement in addressing the priorities in QuISE.   I am beginning to see schools, colleges, and community learning and development now looking beyond their own centre and working with all partners in undertaking self-evaluation and analysing evidence.  The benefit will be greater collective understanding of how effectively their curriculum, learning, teaching and assessment genuinely meet their learners’ needs.  Where that process leads to jointly agreed actions for improvement, I’m in no doubt that the learning experiences and the outcomes for all children and young people will also improve.

Improving assessment measures in primary schools

By Sadie Cushley, HM Inspector and Lead Officer for primary inspection

It’s been an interesting and rewarding process to review our primary inspection findings for the recent report ‘Quality and improvement in Scottish education 2012-2016’ (QuISE). In addition to that four year view, this year we have continued to observe improving practice, and this blog is a good opportunity to share some of that with you.

You can read the primary chapter from QuISE on our website. In primary schools, inspectors found that staff generally used a good range of learning and teaching approaches which enabled children to be more actively involved in their learning. Schools have taken many positive steps to develop and improve the curriculum and should build on this to meet the needs of all children.

Our evidence shows that schools now need to put in place better arrangements for assessing and tracking children’s progress, including having a shared understanding of standards within Curriculum for Excellence levels. As a priority, they should identify and address any gaps in attainment and achievement between their least and most disadvantaged children.

Our inspections continue to show that staff are working hard in most of the schools inspected to ensure that children are actively involved in their learning. Increasingly we see children less passive in their learning due to efforts made by staff to encourage children to think. A common misconception is that if children are moving around they are active in their learning.  Our strongest schools ensure children are thinking and learning during activities.

Often on inspections we can observe really strong practice in an aspect of learning in one class but not in another. It is important that staff visit other classes regularly to learn from their colleagues. A particular strength we observed in one school was where, as part of the moderation at a cluster level, staff at the same stage across the cluster planned a series of lessons to ensure consistency in standards. In addition, they observed these lessons being taught in classes providing feedback on the quality of learning and teaching. In doing this not only did they share expected standards but they achieved more consistent high quality learning and teaching.

This academic year there has been a noticeable improvement in the number of schools who now have a system to track children’s progress more effectively. In almost all schools inspected the headteacher and staff now have an overview of children’s attainment. Where this works best staff all have a clearly understood approach to assessment within their classes which is robust and informs their professional judgement.

In the strongest schools this is articulated in an assessment framework to ensure staff are clear of expectations. We have had several strong approaches to assessment in some of our inspections where staff plan assessment as they are planning their learning and teaching. Assessment is then part of the on-going work, it is less bureaucratic and there is a balance between the use of summative and formative assessment to inform staff of children’s progress.

Already we are seeing schools making good use of the benchmarks to assess children’s progress and make judgements about achieving the level. Since August we have noted some strong practice where staff and the senior management team  meet regularly to discuss the attainment of individuals and cohorts of children. In doing this, interventions are planned to raise attainment or close the gap in attainment, and previous interventions are evaluated as to their effectiveness.

A few schools inspected, in addition to having an overarching view of children’s attainment, drill down to monitor and evaluate the attainment of specific groups. For example, they look at specific cohorts such as children with English as an additional language (EAL), children who are looked after and accommodated (LAC) and children living in SIMD 1&2. This is particularly important in planning interventions to ensure the impact of pupil equity funding.

It is good to see these initiatives being implemented, and I look forward to seeing their impact on the outcomes of our primary pupils.

**NEW** Better Eating Better Learning Award

**NEW** Better Eating, Better Learning AWARD

bebl

The BEBL award is a competition open to primary and secondary schools across Scotland who can demonstrate innovative ways to improve school food and food education.

Is your school using Better Eating, Better Learning to champion positive changes to school food and the food education experience?

To apply, please complete the following questionnaire by midnight on Friday 31st March. Following this, the committee will review all entries and select 8 schools to visit based on strength of    application. These visits will take place from April – June 2017.

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/X3VPXCL

What are we looking for?

Projects will be assessed based on the following criteria;

  • How well are you are using school food as part of a whole school approach to support learning as an integral part of the curriculum?
  • Are you serving school food that drives dietary behaviour change and supports our health and environmental goals?
  • Does your school champion fresh, seasonal, local and sustainable produce?
  • Do you celebrate provenance and ethical sourcing?
  • How are you inspiring future generations who are proud of, and contribute to, Scotland’s ambition as the a Good Food Nation?
  • Do you ensure that school food provides affordable access to good nutrition for all children and young people and optimising the uptake of school meals, in particular for those children and young people receiving free meals?
  • How well are you supporting children and young people, their parents, teaching and catering staff, to enjoy and value school food for its quality, provenance and appeal and in doing so to enable them to understand the relationship between school food, culture, health and the environment?

ASSIST FM, who provide support for suppliers and delivery of school food have created the innovation awards with CRB Cunningham sponsoring the secondary prize and Spaceright sponsoring the       primary prize.

For further Information and details, please contact lorna.aitken@educationscotland.gsi.gov.uk

 

‘Speakers for Schools’: Inspirational talks by UK’s leading figures

s4s-logoSpeakers for Schools is an independent education charity that provides young people in state secondary schools with access to key influential, eminent figures – free of charge. In 2012 they launched in Scotland but know there are still many schools not yet aware of their work that can help support them in their aims to better prepare their young people, inspire them in their ambitions and help young people develop skills and attributes they need to thrive in modern society.

The programme was founded by ITV Political Editor Robert Peston with the ambition of organising free talks from inspiring, brilliant industry leaders from all backgrounds in state schools across the UK, to level the playing field for all young people. Since launching the charity has attracted a network of over 1,000 speakers and organised over 3,279 free talks with schools and colleges across the UK.

These talks allow leading figures to give their time to share their insights and unique experiences with young people as someone at the top of their field, aiming to help broaden students’ horizons, make them feel confident about the possibilities for their future and motivate them to reach their maximum potential.

The talks help complement efforts of educators to raise attainment, aspirations and get learners thinking about the wider world, by engaging them in meaningful discussion.

As a charity Speakers in Schools believe their talks help by:

  • Seeing that all young people have the chance to experience a curriculum through which they learn about the worldof work, we can help you provide this by giving students access to insights, information and perspectives from top, influential figures to help them in preparing for their own future
  • Breaking down misconceptions about the opportunities available to students and/or bridging information gaps to encourage diverse thinking and change the way they think about their own ambitions.
  • Teachers being given support to facilitate young people’s learning and their ability to engage with a rapidly developing landscape of work/career and learning opportunities directly from industry leaders, and broadly increasing school links to more organisations, industries and networks.

 

Their services are free, and state secondary schools in Scotland are eligible to apply.

To find out more or to see if your school is already registered visit: http://www.speakers4schools.org/howitworks

Are you alright? – Reflections on a visit to Polmont

Through the Scottish Attainment  Challenge, the profile of poverty and the implications for attainment and outcomes  for children and young people has never been more to the forefront of discussion and policy.

As part of the Challenge, I have a role in looking at poverty and its resulting complexities from an academic viewpoint and in researching some recent articles.

I recently had the privilege of visiting Polmont Young Offenders Institute with  a group of colleagues to hear and see at first- hand some of the initiatives to increase life chances and improve opportunities in this context. I left the experience with great admiration for the  direction of travel not only to help prevent re- offending but more importantly, the clarity around understanding the stats and stories behind the young people being there in the first place.

These stats had a profound impact on my conscience and strengthened my resolve to share information about prevention rather than cure…..

A fundamental life experience touched almost all of the young people and that was an experience of bereavement, often a close family member. A high number of young folk had multiple losses, one as many as 17 in their life story. Another common feature, was school exclusion and interestingly, most did not dislike school when they were attending but did resort to ‘class clown’ behaviours. This clown image was evident in a striking piece of artwork on the wall of the performance arts studio in Polmont.

Speaking to some of the young people it was clear that common experiences and regret for poor choices was evident but in spite of these difficulties, there was hope for a better future and those who choose to gain skills and qualifications were hopeful these would help them once liberated. After the young people leave is a whole different blog post!

As a result of the visit, I developed this Sway presentation

I hope you find some of the content interesting and thought provoking and would ask you to consider these points.

  • How often do you encounter the ‘class clown’ ?
  • How often do you find the time and space to ask “Are you alright?”
  • What support would make a difference?  
  • What options do youngsters at risk in your care have and how are these made known to them?

This Sway may be useful as part of a professional learning session in your school. If you want to take part in a secure, online discussion of the questions, we are talking about them on the Scottish Attainment Challenge community on Glow

If you need your Glow password reset, see How do I get a Glow login?


 

Primary Nurturing Approaches Professional Learning Resource

A Primary Nurturing Approaches Professional Learning Resource has recently been completed by Education Scotland and was delivered to around 50 representatives from the 9 Challenge Authorities over 4 days in October and November 2016 as a pilot. This was an engaging and motivating 4 days and many of the representatives have begun to embed both universal nurturing approaches and targeted approaches in their schools and LAs.

The resource is being updated to incorporate the feedback of those who attended and will be run again as a 4 day course on the 23rd, and 24th of January and 20th and 21st of February 2017 in Glasgow.  There is an expectation that those who attend this training will be able to take it forward and deliver it in their own context.  Notes of interest are asked to be submitted to the following email: Anne-Marie.Lamont@educationscotland.gsi.gov.uk.  Details on the course and requirements for attending will then be sent out to all those who are interested after which interested parties will be invited to attend if they are felt to be at a stage of readiness to take the training forward in their context. Although the first round of training focused on Challenge authorities, notes of interest are now extended to any interested local authority or school.

Higher Education in the USA – “taster” opportunity

The Sutton Trust U.S. Program is now open for applications for Summer 2017.

This program provides high-achieving, state school students with a taste of life at a top American university. Focusing on social mobility, the Sutton Trust U.S. Program is aimed at students from low or middle income families who would be the first in their family to go to university. The initiative is centred on a one-week summer school at a leading American university, with introductory events and application support in the UK before and after. Previous host campuses have included Harvard, Yale, and MIT.

The Sutton Trust is looking for S5 students who earned six or more As or Bs in their S4 qualifications, or close to this. If you know a student who fits the criteria for this program, please encourage them to visit the Sutton Trust’s website at http://us.suttontrust.com/ and apply!
The deadline for student applications is Sunday, January 22, 2017. Please get your students to check the requirements on the Sutton Trust website closely to confirm they are eligible to apply.

This exchange program can be life-changing, with many Scottish students going on to study at U.S. universities over the past few years.