Exploring Patterns of Subject Specific Performance in School Attainment in Scotland
Playford, C., Gayle, V., Connelly, R. & Murray, S. (2015) Employment Research Institute Seminar Series, Edinburgh Napier University, 17 September 2015 [SLS]
The Scottish school education system roughly mirrors the system in the rest of the UK but the qualifications that young people study for are markedly different. Although the Scottish school qualifications system has recently undergone radical change, Standard Grades have been the main qualifications undertaken by Scottish pupils when they reach the end of compulsory schooling for a number of years, and are the main focus of this paper. These qualifications are important because they mark the first branching point of the educational life-course in Scotland. The study of socio-economic inequalities in school level attainment is well established, however school-level educational attainment in Scotland has been under-researched due to the lack of suitable data resources. In this paper we exploit a recent linkage of administrative data from the Scottish Qualifications Authority with the Scottish Longitudinal Study.
Pupils undertaking Standard Grades studied a mixture of ‘core’ and ‘optional’ subjects from a wide diet of subject choices. Each Standard Grade subject was awarded an individual grade ranging from 1 – 7. Therefore, Scottish pupils have highly individualised patterns of Standard Grade results and there is no single agreed upon overall measure of a pupil’s Standard Grade attainment. In recent work examining school attainment in England and Wales we have demonstrated that there are substantively important patterns of subject level attainment which are occluded when general overall measures are constructed and analysed.
In this paper we examine the relationship between parental socio-economic circumstances and detailed subject-specific patterns of standard grade performance using latent variable techniques. The results of this research will facilitate a better understanding of standard grade attainment in Scotland. We will also make methodological considerations by comparing alternative latent variable approaches.