SCOTLAND is set to rejoin two major international education surveys, more than 13 years after the SNP quit them in a row over costs. 

Humza Yousaf told MSPs that Scottish pupils would be part of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (Timss) and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (Pirls). 

The First Minister said it was part of the government’s efforts to “improve school education.”

However, Scotland's largest teaching union said they feared it could ultimately lead to Scottish education being used as "a political football."

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In 2010, the then education secretary, Michael Russell, said that no longer reporting facts and figures to international bodies would save the Scottish Government money and reduce bureaucracy for teachers. 

However, the decision came as the global comparators showed Scotland falling down the league tables.

In 2006 Pirls demoted Scotland from 14th place in literacy and reading to 21st out of 40 countries. 

The Timms report from 2007 ranked Scotland 20th of 36 countries in maths performance at primary five level and 22nd in science. 

But the lack of data since then has worried education experts. 

Last year, Reform Scotland said that with “very few methods of capturing data” we “know less now about the performance of schools than at any time since the 1950s.”

They pointed out that the number of pupils sitting eight exams fell from 38,467 at standard grade level in 2000 to 3,441 at the equivalent National 5 level in 2019.

Keir Bloomer, chairman of their commission on school reform, said this was an  “unintended and unwanted consequence of muddled policy development.”

“If Scotland had better educational data, it would have been picked up much earlier,” he added.

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In his statement to MSPs, Mr Yousaf said: “As part of our efforts to improve school education, we will increase the availability of internationally comparable data on Scotland’s education performance. 

“Scotland already participates in the widely-respected [Programme for International Student Assessment] PISA studies. We will also now apply to rejoin two other major international statistics systems - Trends in International Maths and Science, and Progress in International Reading Literacy.”

The move was welcomed by SNP leadership rival Kate Forbes. She said: “This is excellent news from the First Minister because only with the data can you identify where to invest resources, improve outcomes and adapt policy.”

EIS General Secretary Andrea Bradley was more cautious.

She said: “In rejoining Timms and Pirls, the challenge for the Cabinet Secretary will be to avoid the mistakes of the past, where a competitive, data-driven culture has been counter-productive.

"Indeed, the current reform of the senior phase is due in large part to the culture of performativity spawned by a limited focus on narrow attainment data as opposed to the real purposes of education. 

"The EIS acknowledges the value of data in supporting progress in learning – whether it is gathered locally, nationally or internationally – used in its proper context to inform learning and to assist educators in improving teaching and learning for all children and young people. 

"The EIS is clear, though, that performance data configured as ‘league tables’ does not support informed, rational educational debate in the genuine interests of learners.

"Rather, experience shows, it is often used to treat education as a political football. This is a scenario that should be avoided if we are to move forward collaboratively in the interests of quality education provision in Scotland.”