What is attainment and why does it matter?
People’s life chances are often determined by their attainments and achievements in their early years and at school. Improving attainment means improving life chances. For the individual, educational attainment is the passport to social, cultural and economic prosperity. For Scotland as a country, raising attainment means improving our international competitiveness for the benefit of all.
Raising attainment goes hand in hand with the principles of Curriculum for Excellence transforming the way in which children learn and develop the skills and experience they need for successful futures. It is also central to all the Scottish Government's work on GIRFEC, Early Years and learning post 16. It is not just about achieving better exam results – hugely important as that is. Raising attainment is also about encouraging and inspiring Scotland’s children to have the confidence and ambition to be all they can be.
Why do we need to focus on attainment?
Scotland has achieved a lot and generally Scotland's performance is improving. The latest PISA survey confirms that we have stopped the relative decline in the standing of Scottish education against international comparators. SQA's Attainment and School Leaver Qualifications data show that in 2009-10, over half Scotland's pupils left school with at least one qualification at Higher or above. Fewer young people than at any point in the past left school with no qualifications.
However, Scotland’s education system is still not delivering for all young people. Evidence shows that there is still a significant variation in attainment depending on social context in Scotland, with a clear link between relative deprivation and lower attainment. We also know that Looked After Children in particular are significantly behind their peers in terms of attainment; with poorer attendance rates and greater risk of exclusion; and leaving school earlier and with fewer qualifications.
It is important, therefore, to build on our strengths and ensure that Scotland’s education system is delivering for all our children and young people.
What can we do?