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Highland councillor calls for even more to be done as literacy and numeracy attainment levels rise

By Scott Maclennan

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Councillor Helen Crawford believes more can be done to drive up attainment levels further.
Councillor Helen Crawford believes more can be done to drive up attainment levels further.

Earlier this year Highland Council area was ranked worst in Scotland for literacy and numeracy in P1, P4 and P7.

Official statistics for 2020/21 for P1/P4/P7 state that 49 per cent of pupils were achieving in literacy but the Scottish average was 67 per cent, while 60 per cent were achieving in numeracy against a national average of 75 per cent.

Council bosses blamed the impact of Covid despite investment per primary pupil putting the council at 20th out of 32 local authority areas in the country as they insist much work is ongoing to improve attainment.

The latest figures show performance for Highland P1/P4/P7 combined rose by 10 per cent, with 59 per cent of pupils achieving the expected literacy standard while the proportion achieving expected standards in numeracy rose by eight per cent, to 68 per cent.

Fiona Grant, head of service secondary education and Colette Macklin, head of service primary, underlined that the figures reported to the education committee were “estimates based on returns from schools in June 2022,” with a “number of assumptions” made when calculating percentages.

Aird and Loch Ness councillor Helen Crawford welcomed the improvement but said the only thing that really changed was teachers receiving standardised training in how to rank attainment.

“I am determined to campaign for improvements in our local schools,” she said. “Whilst the improvement is not due to catch up programmes or any change in how we deliver literacy and numeracy tuition, it is still to be welcomed as a starting point.

“It’s a change in terms of how our teachers rate attainment, not a strategic, Highland-wide change in terms of how we teach our children.

“So let’s be clear, nothing has changed Highland-wide in terms of how the council approaches the teaching of literacy and numeracy; it’s just that our hard working teachers have finally received training in how to rate levels of literacy and numeracy.

“Until now, our teachers have been left to work out for themselves how to grade these important fundamentals. This is in contrast to other local authority areas in Scotland where, many years ago and on a continuing basis, the relevant education department ensured standardised assessments took place across the whole area.

“We have to ask the question: where is the catch-up programme we were promised in literacy and numeracy? Where’s the big thinking and direction we really need from the council to improve these core fundamentals in our schools?”

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