Primary schools in the Highlands have seen improved performance in literacy and numeracy, but are still below the national average.
The board’s education committee gave a lukewarm response to the new statistics. While praising the schools’ hard work, they said there was still a long way to go.
Opposition advisers specifically asked how the new success strategy will work where others have failed.
Highland education bosses have stressed that this is a “journey of improvement” and that focusing on a small number of top priorities will pay off.
Highland primary level up
The good news is that the numbers seem to be heading in the right direction.
The Education Committee report shows improved performance at all levels of primary education.
In P1, 64% of pupils reach the required level in literacy (+12%) and 77% in numeracy (+10%).
In P4, it’s 54% for literacy and 63% for numeracy.
At the end of P7, 59% of pupils are where they should be in literacy and 67% in arithmetic.
However, even the improved numbers are below the national average. Councilor Helen Crawford highlighted in particular the results of the P7.
“I think we have to be mindful of these high numbers,” she said. “If you look at the percentage of those who are P7 literate, it’s 59% – I’m not happy with that, I don’t think any of us are happy with that. We need to improve that. I know that’s the goal and I’m happy about it, but we have to be better. On literacy in P4, we sit at 54%. This is a sobering statistic.
Figures from the Local Government Benchmarking Framework in 2020 place the national average at 67% for literacy and 75% for numeracy. At that time, Highland was bottom of the rankings with 49% and 60% respectively.
Another Success Plan
The Highland Council has set out a detailed strategy to improve the primary school completion rate.
Education bosses say they intend to catch up by next year and hope to surpass the national average by 2024.
They say the key to improving literacy is high-quality professional learning throughout a teaching career.
However, Councilor Andrew Jarvie says this is nothing new.
“These numbers tell me that in general Highland’s national position has not changed. we are still. The top quartile was the target. It was said very clearly, and it was supposed to be a few years from now, not three years from now.
“We’ve had an action plan to achieve each year and I don’t see anything that says it drastically changes education. How is this plan different? »
Nicky Grant, chief education officer, said the service was “pursuing fewer things now”, saying a concerted focus on a small number of defined priorities would drive change.
Meanwhile, education quality officials spoke about the detailed work schools are doing on literacy and numeracy.
“Talk about shooting us in the foot”
Interestingly, educators said they are working to make Highland more consistent in how it grades student work. Education bosses suggested there was a tendency to “score higher” than other councils, thereby artificially lowering results.
“Teachers are often nervous about giving top grades,” said Education Chairman John Finlayson. “We have to work on their confidence.”
The board is working with schools to improve consistency in how they measure performance. Councilor Alasdair Christie noted the anomaly, commenting: “Talk about shooting us in the foot.”
Mr Christie suggested that most of the information given to the Education Committee would ideally be heard by the full Highland Council, to ensure members fully understood.
“I totally agree,” said chairman Mr Finlayson. “We have to make sure we raise the bar. We are on a journey and we hope to be able to expedite this journey. Categorically, we have to go as fast as possible.
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[Highland councillors say primary attainment strategy must deliver]