Scottish government consults on closing the gap

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Scottish government has launched a consultation on assessing progress in literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing for children and young people from 3-18.

The government is seeking the views of practitioners and other professionals on its proposals for the measures and milestones it should put in place for closing the gap between children from disadvantaged communities and their better-off peers.

It says that measuring the attainment gap is a complex issue and there is a need to ensure that the measures and milestones towards closing the gap are appropriate and will provide a clear picture of progress across the education system.

Ministers say they are committed to making 'demonstrable progress' towards closing the gap during the lifetime of the current Parliament and to ‘substantially eliminate’ it in the next ten years.

The consultation proposes to use Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) data to identify the most and least disadvantaged children and young people, rather than Free School Meals registration data. They will look at the difference in attainment between those children and young people from SIMD quintiles 1 and 5. However, to recognise the importance of increasing attainment for all children it is proposing to set 'stretch aims' for all 5 SIMD quintiles.


The consultation proposes a basket of eight key eight key outcome measures from the early years, through primary to the end of secondary school, specifically on the achievement and attainment of children (and the associated ‘gap’).  

The first measure will be at the 27-30 month review.

The consultation states, ‘While the data in the early years is not as rich as for school years, it is considered important to include some information that relates to children’s development in the early years. Social, emotional and behavioural development is considered to be an integral part of achieving good outcomes and the impact of poor early development on later attainment is strong. It is proposed to use data on the gap in “developmental concerns” identified in the 27-30 month review.’

It also proposes a set of 17 supporting sub-measures to provide more detail on the attainment measures and also related measures on factors known to influence attainment.

They include aspects of health and wellbeing, which are known to impact significantly on a child’s ability to do well at school.

The consultation states, ’Our expectation is that a basket of eight measures will give a broad enough picture of the attainment gap from early years to school leavers and, importantly, would be relatively simple to measure and report against. Having fewer indicators would risk losing important information about how the gap changes e.g. from P1 to P7, and how the drivers for improvement are affecting the gap at each key stage.

‘Having additional measures would risk increasing the overall complexity of measuring the gap, and would run the risk of being too complicated and, consequently, reduce the value and transparency of the results.’


Milestones will measure whether, and how quickly, the gaps in achievement between the most and least disadvantaged children and young people are closing.

The Scottish government says it is not proposing to set milestones simply related to reducing the gaps identified for each measure, e.g. a 25 per cent reduction in that gap by 2020.

It says that ‘while achieving this milestone would demonstrate that particular gap was closing, it would not necessarily mean that attainment was increasing'.

It suggests that the most effective way of measuring progress is to use "stretch aims", similar to those set out in the Children and Young People Improvement Collaborative, which set aims that reflect improvement in every Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) quintile.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said, ‘Closing the poverty-related attainment gap is a defining mission of this government and it is therefore essential we have a clear way of measuring progress.

‘I do not believe it is sensible or realistic to assess the performance of our system using a single measure, which is why we already use a number of indicators to monitor progress.

‘This consultation goes further and brings together the most relevant measures, such as early years development and literacy and numeracy, as well as proposing key milestones on the journey towards closing the gap. I urge everyone with an interest to submit their view.’

The proposals will be published as part of the 2018 Improvement Plan in December.

  • The consultation National Improvement Framework: Consultation on measuring the attainment gap and milestones towards closing it, ends on 20 November, can be found here

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