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15 December 2015, 17:35
Education experts have backed the introduction of standardised national tests in Scottish schools.
A report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said the current assessment system did not provide sufficiently robust information for policymakers, councils, schools or teachers.
The OECD was tasked with reviewing Curriculum for Excellence reforms as they affect pupils up to the age of 15.
It found that levels of academic achievement were above international averages in science and reading, but had declined in maths to around the average.
Achievement levels were spread relatively equally, with schools performing "very well'' on social inclusion and the large majority of students holding positive attitudes towards school.
A drop in school-age teenage smoking and alcohol consumption was also praised.
The report also highlighted challenges, including a minority of schools and early learning centres that remain just at or below "satisfactory'' in inspection reports.
There were also smaller relative numbers of top reading performers among primary and secondary students comparing 2012 and 2104, with positive attitudes to school dropping sharply among secondary students.
The report made 12 recommendations including the need for more evidence to evaluate learning outcomes and progress.
It said: "Current assessment arrangements do not provide sufficiently robust information, whether for system-level policy-making, or for local authorities, or for individual schools or across CfE domains for learners and their teachers.
"The proposed National Improvement Framework has the potential to provide such a robust evidence base.''
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the Scottish Government "broadly accepted'' the report's recommendations.
She said: "I am particularly pleased that the OECD supports our decision to develop and implement a National Improvement Framework.
"We share their view that we have a great opportunity to lead the world in developing an integrated assessment and evaluation framework.
"I firmly believe the framework will play an important role in driving work to close the attainment gap and continually improve Scottish education.''
Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), said the report painted a "largely positive'' picture.
He said: "It confirms previous data that indicates that Scottish schools and levels of pupil attainment compare well both internationally and with other countries within the UK.
"It also highlights the well-established challenges facing Scottish education, including the poverty-related attainment gap that continues to have a negative impact on too many young people across the country.''
Chris Keates, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), said: "The report is clear that the direction of travel for the education system in Scotland is positive.
"Credit for much of this must go to teachers and school leaders who have pulled out all the stops to ensure that the high quality of teaching and learning has been maintained for pupils, despite the many challenges posed by the way in which the reforms to the curriculum have been implemented.
"It will be vital for the Scottish Government, as it takes forward its proposals for the National Improvement Framework, to address these concerns, particularly as the planned introduction of national assessments has the potential to drive up teacher workload still further, if not implemented carefully.''
Scottish Conservative young person spokeswoman Liz Smith MSP said: "The report confirms that there are many encouraging signs including good levels of achievement in science and reading, and that the majority of pupils feel positive about their school and teachers.
"However, it also confirms that there are major issues in numeracy and it sends out a very stark message about addressing failing schools.
"A range of recent statistics prove the extent of the attainment gap and the fact that literacy and numeracy are not as strong as they should be.''