SCOTLAND has no reliable method of monitoring the performance of schools in literacy and numeracy for the first time in almost 60 years, a leading academic has warned.

Lindsay Paterson, professor of education policy at Edinburgh University, said the scrapping of key educational surveys – and the withdrawal from others – had left the country with a system of evaluation that was “woefully inadequate”.

The warning comes at a time when standards in literacy and numeracy have been falling in Scottish schools.

Last year, it was found less than half of Scotland’s 13 and 14-year-olds were performing well in writing.

Read more: Statistics on school performance 'cannot be relied upon'

Following the decline, the Scottish Government replaced the Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy, which measures national performance, with the publication of findings based on teacher judgments of pupils’ ability.

It has been argued the new teacher-judgement information is better than the previous survey because it collates information on the performance of every child in Scotland.

Ministers say the judgments are reliable because teachers can compare their own views alongside the results of new national standardised tests.

Read more: Decline in standards of literacy

However in a lecture at Edinburgh University, Mr Paterson argued the data was not suitable for judging the performance of schools because it is based on the subjective views of individual teachers.

Evidence from earlier surveys showed teacher assessments of their pupils has often been overly optimistic.

He said: “Teachers are expected to draw upon the new standardised assessments when forming these judgments, but no public data will be available to allow any comparison of teacher judgements with independent assessments.

“Furthermore, the Scottish Government withdrew Scotland from the two international surveys of pupil attainment in primary schools, one on mathematics and science and one on literacy.

“For the first time since the 1950s there is no regular survey of Scottish primary pupils, there is no regular survey of school-leavers, there is no survey means by which policy changes might be evaluated in detail.”

Mr Paterson said the only survey that remained was the three-yearly Programme For International Student Assessment series, which tests 15-year-olds.

He added: “That series provides no explanations of much use to understanding policy. There is now notIt provides no information on school leavers, no information on teachers’ judgements of their pupils and no way of linking the data to any other source.

“There was hope in the 1990s that a parliament would form a natural supporter of this kind of evidence, but nothing of the sort has come to pass in education.

“There is now not a single indigenous survey source with which to hold our new rulers to account. There is a philistinism and a closing of minds to science that are the very antithesis of proper accountability.”

Read more: Statistics on school performance 'cannot be relied upon'

Professor Rowena Arshad, head of Edinburgh University’s School of Education, also raised concerns about the lack of performance tracking.

She said: “I do think this is a very serious question that we have to press government on because we are in serious danger of not only not having independent research, but robust research to inform our policy.”

Liz Smith, education spokeswoman for the Scottish Conservative Party, said the lack of meaningful data to measure how well schools were performing was worrying.

She said: “At a time when the priority is on raising attainment, it is critical that good quality data is available, that it can be used in a wholly transparent manner and that it can inform policy decision-making.

“Professor Paterson is quite right to say that we cannot depend only on subjective teacher judgment. It is imperative that this matter is urgently addressed by the SNP so that schools are better able to measure their performance and be held accountable for it.”

Read more: Statistics on school performance 'cannot be relied upon'

Iain Gray, education spokesman for the Scottish Labour Party, said government “rhetoric” about raise attainment “rang hollow” because there was no way of measuring success.

He said: “They abolished the highly regarded literacy and numeracy survey and withdrew from international surveys because the results did not suit them.

“Their own statisticians have told them that their standardised assessments do not allow valid comparisons. They have consulted on a basket of measures which is simply a dogs breakfast telling us nothing.

“Incredibly the Scottish Government is subjecting Scottish school pupils as young as five to testing, but the data will not be valid, the worst of all worlds.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said education was the government’s “defining priority” and it was committed to creating a world-class system that closed the attainment gap between rich and poor.

He said: “Through the National Improvement Framework we now have more data than ever on children’s progress in their learning under Curriculum for Excellence.

“This includes senior phase data which shows clear evidence of good attainment, both for National Qualifications and wider achievement – for example, in 2017, over 150,000 Higher passes for the third year in a row, and almost 60,000 skills based awards.

Read more: Decline in standards of literacy

“The introduction of standardised assessments will ensure there is an element of national consistency in the judgement that teachers make about pupils’ progress.

“However, they are also only one source of information teachers have available to inform their professional judgement, alongside classwork, observation and other assessment options.”