Row breaks out at Moray Council about use of school statistics to track pupil progress

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Education authorities in Moray have been urged not to use statistics as a “stick to beat staff over the head with” when judging the success of pupils.

A fierce debate broke out during yesterday’s meeting of the council’s children and young people’s committee while reviewing performance data from the 2017/18 academic year.

Figures presented in the report showed declining standards across all sections in S3 against the previous year’s assessment from teachers of pupils achieving the expected Curriculum for Excellence (CFE) level.

But when Forres councillor Claire Feaver asked for assurances for how a “decent” education would be provided, a war of words broke out.

Susan Slater, Moray branch secretary for the EIS union, objected to the choice of language.

She said: “You are expecting our children to jump through hoops that some are unable to reach to the same levels as others.

“It’s nothing to do with the failure to deliver education properly, and absolutely nothing to do with the pupils failing.”

She added: “We have pupils going through schools sitting National 2 and National 3 exams, they are achieving to the best of their abilities but are still included in these statistics.”

Mrs Feaver replied: “I can only go by what is in the papers in front of me.”

Figures presented to the meeting showed that the number of S3 students reaching the CFE level for numeracy dropped to 61%, a decrease of 24% from the year prior.

The writing total fell by 17% to 32%, reading fell by 19% to 34% and listening and talking dropped by 9% to 40%.

Elgin City North councillor Frank Brown raised concerns that education in Moray was beginning to fall behind the rest of Scotland due to a “reducing performance” in schools.

But Speyside Glenlivet councillor Derek Ross, who is a former teacher, warned against drawing conclusions from the data.

He said: “I urge caution when looking at statistics – they don’t give the whole picture of what is happening in a school.

“We can’t use them as a big stick to beat staff over the head with.”

Forres councillor George Alexander, who was a secondary school teacher, added: “We can’t put pressure on professionals because otherwise they might be pressured into telling fibs.

“When I was teaching that definitely happened,  they were clearly put under pressure to say a pupil had met a certain level when clearly they had not.”

Moray Council’s head of schools Vivienne Cross explained great effort had gone into ensuring the data collected was “robust”.

She added: “We want to give staff confidence in when they can say a child has achieved a particular level. We are aware some of our staff are reticent at the moment to say that because they want to be absolutely sure.”