LITERACY and numeracy attainment levels at North Ayrshire primary schools declined sharply in the last academic year in what has been branded a clear demonstration of the "significant impact of the pandemic" on pupil learning.

Figures compiled by North Ayrshire Council (NAC) ahead of a cabinet meeting this week revealed a significant decrease in achievement across all measures between 2019 and 2021.

The Scottish Government began collecting statistics on the Curriculum for Excellence level achieved in literacy and numeracy by pupils in P1, P4, P7 and S3 in 2016, and Covid forced the suspension of the data collection for all schools in 2020.

Data was collected again in 2021 for children in P1, P4 and P7, but not S3 - and a report published by NAC outlined the downward trend in recent years.

The report said: "There is a strong improvement trend in all measures at almost all stages for the 2016-2019 period.

"However, there has been a significant decrease across all measures between 2019 and 2021.

"This data clearly demonstrates the significant impact of the pandemic on pupil learning.

"While learners in North Ayrshire were above the national figure for both literacy and numeracy combined between the years 2016-2019, for 2021 it is below the national figure for the first time since data was recorded.

"While nationally achievement also decreased, achievement in North Ayrshire decreased at a sharper rate.

"As a direct result of these achievement levels, additional interventions in literacy and numeracy have been implemented throughout session 2021-22, with significant efforts in every school to recover from the impact the pandemic has had on attainment."

According to the statistics, the percentage of pupils in the three year groups combined who achieved the required level of attainment in literacy was just 59 per cent, compared to the national figure of 67 per cent. This was the lowest proportion since 2017, and far behind the 2019 figure of 74 per cent.

For numeracy, around two-thirds of North Ayrshire pupils in P1, P4 and P7 achieved Curriculum for Excellence level of attainment in 2021, compared to three-quarters nationally.

The report proposed several improvement actions to try to raise attainment levels, including the implementation of a new learning, teaching and assessment policy; the revision of existing literacy and numeracy frameworks; the employment of additional teachers to support targeted schools with attainment in literacy and numeracy; and the design and implementation of a three-year raising attainment strategy and a further focus on effective moderation across and within schools.

The report adds: "In addition to the measures outlined above, the education service has plans to invest the new permanent funding in additional staffing resources specifically to help us to address, not only the added challenges resulting from the pandemic, but also to support our schools to re-establish the previous strong progress towards raising attainment for all at the same time as reducing the poverty-related attainment gap."