Scotland politics

Education Scotland puts school leaver data online

School pupils Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The public will be able to find out what happens to pupils once they leave the classroom

People in Scotland can discover more about how well their local school is doing following a decision to put a bigger range of information online.

Education Scotland's website now hosts previously unpublished data like where a pupil goes after leaving school.

The Scottish Parent Teacher Council welcomed the one-stop resource, but warned it could be difficult to understand.

The data can be found on the official Parentzone Scotland website.

It is being made available to try to give parents an idea of how well a particular school is doing compared to others with a similar catchment area.

One crucial piece of information which was not previously made available focuses on school leavers.

It includes information on what former pupils went on to do - for instance the proportion in a job, the proportion at university and so on - along with the level of attainment in literacy and numeracy.

There's also information on the qualifications school leavers have.

One reason for presenting the data in this way is that the emphasis is now on what a young person has attained by the time they leave school rather than how many qualifications they have at particular stages.

S4, S5 and S6 now form what's called "the senior phase" and different learners may study for qualifications at different stages.

The data from each school is set against a specially calculated comparison.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Pupil attainment is also part of the new data set

This should show whether a school is doing relatively well or badly compared to others facing similar challenges, such as the proportion of youngsters from a deprived background.

Many in education argue this is much more meaningful than, say, a national average which takes no account of the challenges each school may face.

The downside is that a "theoretical" figure like this may be less straightforward to understand.

However it is possible for this comparative figure to show that a school with relatively good exam results is actually coasting - or one with relatively poor ones is actually doing far better than others whose catchment areas face similar challenges.

Exam results have not been presented as "league tables" in Scotland for many years. Critics long argued these tables were meaningless as schools in relatively prosperous areas often tended to dominate the tables while those in deprived areas often tended to come lowest.

Scotland's biggest teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland, said that while there was a demand "for some measures of school performance" parents know that schools are about "far more than simply producing pass marks in exams".

A spokesman added: "Parents will always want access to a range of information relating to their own child's school and it is welcome that this is now being delivered online in an accessible format."

Parent feedback

The Scottish Parent Teacher Council supports the principles behind the changes but believes it might be possible to improve the new website over time.

It said: "SPTC takes the view that one of the most important ways to build trust between parents and schools/local authorities is through openness and sharing: we often bemoan the poor quality information provided to parents, particularly where public information which should be freely accessible to all.

"Education Scotland's addition of school performance information to the Parentzone website is a positive step in the right direction: from our experience most parents want to know what is happening in their own child's school, and possibly how it compares with the school across town or up the road. The information on Parentzone helps parents to do that.

"SPTC has been asked to review the information and how it is presented: while we feel some of the tables, charts and language are quite difficult to understand - for example tariff scores and virtual comparators - we hope this is a positive first step, and that over time the range, relevance and accessibility of the information will improve with feedback from parents themselves, and as data builds up over the years.

"We hope more parents will use the information now it is readily available through Parentzone and that Education Scotland will listen to the comments and questions they receive from parents. At the end of the day performance data is only one aspect of the information parents want, but it is important information which helps parents ask the right questions of their school."

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