THERE is currently no statistically rigorous way of monitoring progress in literacy and numeracy in Scottish schools, according to a damning report.

MSPs said decisions taken by the Scottish Government on the way educational performance is monitored had created a “data gap” of at least five years - with no guarantee it would not be longer.

And they said the situation meant there was no way of holding the Scottish Government to account over its priority of improving schools and closing the poverty-related attainment gap.

The warning comes in a report by the Scottish Parliament’s education committee, which has been investigating the introduction of Scottish National Standardised Assessments (SNSAs) in primary and secondary schools.

SNSAs were introduced at a time when standards of literacy and numeracy were falling, with fewer than half of Scotland’s 13 and 14-year-olds performing well in writing in 2017.

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The Scottish Government said publishing data on pupil performance based on the professional judgements of teachers, backed up by the new assessments, would provide the best picture of the nation’s education system.

As a result, ministers scrapped the Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy (SSLN), which was previously measuring national performance on a sample basis.

However, official statistics on teacher judgements in recent years have been labelled “experimental” because they are currently not reliable enough.

The committee report said: “The committee is concerned the Scottish Government’s decisions on national performance data, including the discontinuation of the SSLN, have generated a data gap of at least five years, with no guarantee the gap will not be longer.

“The loss of continuity in datasets is a particular concern as the last SSLN results in 2017 highlighted performance issues in relation to numeracy and literacy.”

MSPs said information from standardised assessments was not comparable to the information from the SSLN.

It added: “The lack of baseline data means no meaningful conclusions on upward or downward trends can be reached at a time of reform within Scottish education.

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“The Scottish Government contends that it did not want to overburden the education system with the continuation of the SSLN in tandem with work towards a new data gathering mechanism.

“However, the committee is concerned at the loss of rigorous national performance data that assisted parliament and wider society in holding the government to account for its performance on education and allowed for transparent scrutiny of the education system.”

The committee report went on to scrutinise claims by John Swinney, the Education Secretary, that key decisions were based on advice from international development body the OECD.

The report states: “The committee notes the evidence from certain witnesses to this inquiry reflected that the Scottish Government announced policies quickly without meaningful collaboration with certain key stakeholders or establishing an in-depth evidence base for elements of these policies.

“The evidence from certain witnesses suggests that the Scottish Government moved quickly to announce these policies and that the policy formulation process was perhaps compromised as a result.”

MSPs have now called for the Scottish Government to conduct a review of the statistical value of the SSLN.

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The report concluded: “The committee recommends that the outcome of this review should inform decision making on whether to ... reinstate the SSLN.

“Given the support that the data produced by the SSLN received in evidence, the committee recommends that the viability of scaling up the SSLN to provide information at a local level should be re-examined.”

The committee also called for the Scottish Government to provide greater clarity over the purpose of standardised assessments arguing witnesses to the inquiry had been “confused”.

MSPs said there had been inconsistencies in how those using the assessments perceived their purpose.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We will consider the recommendations in full and respond in due course.”

The new standardised assessments were introduced in 2017 and are sat by pupils in P1, P4, P7 and the third year of secondary school. Critics have called for them to be scrapped.