Local Authorities

Information for local authorities

The Scottish Government introduced the Scottish National Standardised Assessments (SNSA) and the Measaidhean Coitcheann Nàiseanta airson Foghlam tron Ghàidhlig (MCNG) as part of the National Improvement Framework. The SNSA and the MCNG are now collectively known as the National Standardised Assessments for Scotland (NSA) and both assessments are housed in the same online system.

The NSA is a nationally consistent set of standardised assessments designed to reflect the way we deliver education in Scotland through Curriculum for Excellence and, in the case of the MCNG, the principles of Gaelic Medium Education.

What you need to know as a local authority

What is being assessed?

The National Standardised Assessments for Scotland focus on aspects of reading, writing and numeracy and are aligned to the literacy and numeracy standards articulated in the relevant experiences and outcomes.

Who is being assessed?

All children in P1, P4, P7 and S3.

When will the assessments take place?

Individual teachers and schools, with guidance from their local authorities, will decide on the most appropriate time during the school year for children and young people to take the standardised assessments.

The Scottish Government has been clear that there is no need for all children or young people within a class, school or local authority to undertake the assessments within the same “window” or block of time. Teachers’ professional judgement is key. Decisions on when assessments should be administered for children and young people should be driven by educational arguments and based on the needs and interests of the individual learner.


What form do the assessments take?

Assessments are completed online and automatically marked by the online system, giving teachers same day feedback to help children and young people progress.

How will this impact children and young people?

The NSAs are delivered as part of routine learning and teaching. Children and young people are not expected to revise or prepare for assessments. The assessments are as inclusive as possible, and accommodate the needs of children and young people who require additional support with their learning. Considered classroom management will ensure a positive experience for children and young people.

How will the outcomes be used?

NSAs provide nationally consistent, objective, diagnostic information to contribute to practitioners’ holistic understanding of how children and young people are progressing in school. As well as informing individual learners’ next steps in learning, the data can help to highlight which learning and teaching approaches are working best and where changes might need to be made. Teachers, schools, and local authorities use this information to make further improvements at an individual, classroom, school and local level. That way we can learn from the best, and ensure time and efforts are focused on the approaches that have the greatest impact on learning, which in turn, will help every child or young person to succeed.

What is the rationale for the SNSA?

Why has the online system for national assessments had to change?

As the contract for delivery of phase one of the MCNG expired in July 2021 and the contract for SNSAs expired in July 2022, the Scottish Government was required to put the service out to competition. The decision was taken to establish a combined assessment platform for phase two delivery of the National Standardised Assessments for Scotland (NSA). The new system will house both the Scottish National Standardised Assessments (SNSA) and the Measaidhean Coitcheann Nàiseanta airson Foghlam tron Ghàidhlig (MCNG) as two distinct assessment sets. As a result, the assessment system differs in appearance from the previous versions.

How do the assessments benefit children and teachers?

The National Standardised Assessments for Scotland (NSA) provide diagnostic information on how all children and young people in Scotland are progressing with aspects of literacy and numeracy. Taken together with the full range of ongoing assessment information, the standardised assessment outcomes support the establishment of an holistic view of how individuals and groups of learners are progressing.

Alongside a range of other evidence, the NSA data informs teachers’ professional judgements of Curriculum for Excellence levels. The assessments should not be used in isolation and should not be viewed as a replacement for the ongoing assessment of children and young people’s progress which is central to Curriculum for Excellence.

The Scottish Government is clear that the purpose of all assessment, including national standardised assessments, is to help teachers understand how children and young people are progressing, and to help teachers tailor aspects of future learning accordingly. Assessment data should be used to improve educational outcomes for every child and young person.

Are the assessments inclusive and accessible?

Are the assessments inclusive and accessible?

The National Standardised Assessments for Scotland are designed to be as inclusive as possible and accommodate the needs of children and young people who require additional support with their learning. Whatever support a learner receives in the classroom should be available for the assessments.

Are the assessments appropriate for children and young people who require additional support with their learning?

Practitioners who work with children and young people with complex additional support needs will use their knowledge and understanding of the individual learner and their needs, strengths and challenges to reach a decision, in consultation with parents/carers, on whether or not the use of standardised assessment is appropriate.

What should you do now?

Supporting schools

Local authorities will continue to decide how they support their schools with the standardised assessments. Local authority representatives with responsibility for assessment work closely with headteachers and teachers to advise them on planning for the assessments. Advice and support on classroom management and on the use of assessment data is particularly important.

Using the data

All the data generated by the standardised assessments is owned by local authorities and provides them with the opportunity to analyse the progression of children and young people in a variety of ways.

Reporting and analysis of the data is key, and consideration should be given to how local authorities wish to produce reports to ensure they continue to be useful and informative.

Dynamic local authority level reports will be made available in the assessments portal. This will provide local authorities with a wide range of assessment data to use for analysis.

Curriculum for Excellence levels

Each local authority has its own assessment policy which should include strategies for considering the standardised assessment data and how the outcomes can be used diagnostically to inform learning and teaching. Consideration should also be given to how the standardised assessments can support teachers' professional judgement on learners’ achievement of Curriculum for Excellence levels.


A range of training opportunities will be rolled out over the course of the academic year.  The initial focus for training will be on the provision of introductory support materials which ensure practitioners can access the platform, make full use of its functionality, and deliver assessments in ways which support learners who require additional support with their learning or for whom English is an additional language.  

The focus of training thereafter will move onto the use of NSA data and more specific areas of assessment delivery, aligned to the training coverage from phase one.

Resources will be made available through the help pages on the portal in the first instance.  Users will also have access to the NSA service desk, should they have any queries or require further assistance. 

Training will be delivered primarily through digital means.  During the winter term, support officers will begin to make contact with local authorities to establish training needs and priorities and identify what face to face training opportunities and live webinar provision authorities would find most helpful.

Technical readiness

The National Standardised Assessments for Scotland tool is entirely web-based and available on any technical platform. It does not require any bespoke IT upgrades or installations.

The Service Desk can provide help and support on all aspects of the standardised assessments including advice on technical readiness.
You can email the Service Desk at support@nsa.scot. Phone contact details for the Service Desk are available when you log into the NSA system itself.