The climb to the top of the class

UK stu­dents are im­prov­ing in their read­ing and maths skills

Manchester Evening News - - NEWS IN NUMBERS - By DEB­ORA ARU

THE UK is ris­ing in the league ta­bles when it comes to in­ter­na­tional school rank­ings. PISA tests are run by the Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Eco­nomic Co-op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment (OECD) and as­sess teenagers’ ca­pa­bil­i­ties across var­i­ous sub­jects. They take place ev­ery three years. The new fig­ures show the UK now ranks in 14th place when it comes to read­ing. That is a climb of seven places com­pared to the 22nd po­si­tion we sat in three years ago. When it comes to sci­ence, the UK rose from 15th place to 14th, and our maths po­si­tion is now 18th. That is a rise from 27th place three years ago. In terms of av­er­age scores, the UK’s re­sults in read­ing and sci­ence have re­mained sta­ble since 2006, but stu­dents in our coun­try saw a sig­nif­i­cant nine point im­prove­ment be­tween 2015 and 2018 in maths. Across all coun­tries in­cluded in the tests, China came in first place for read­ing, sci­ence and maths. The fig­ures also showed how the pro­por­tion of stu­dents with an im­mi­grant back­ground in the United King­dom has in­creased over time. One in ev­ery five stu­dents - or 20% - in 2018 was an im­mi­grant. That has nearly dou­bled from 11% in 2009. One in three of these im­mi­grant stu­dents was so­cio-eco­nom­i­cally dis­ad­van­taged. De­spite these lev­els of dis­ad­van­tage, 21% of im­mi­grant stu­dents in the UK were in the top quar­ter for read­ing per­for­mance, com­pared to 17% across all the coun­tries in­cluded in the tests. Eng­land achieved the high­est scores in the UK for all three sub­jects, while Wales re­mained the low­est-per­form­ing. Scot­land per­formed bet­ter than North­ern Ire­land at read­ing and North­ern Ire­land out­per­formed Scot­land at maths and sci­ence. In read­ing, Wales scored be­low the av­er­age for OECD coun­tries, while Eng­land, Scot­land and North­ern Ire­land were all above av­er­age. More than four-fifths of stu­dents across the UK at­tained at least Level 2 pro­fi­ciency in read­ing. The OECD says this means they can iden­tify the main ideas in a text of mod­er­ate length, find in­for­ma­tion based on ex­plicit cri­te­ria, and can re­flect on the pur­pose and form of texts when di­rected to do so. Some 81% of stu­dents in the UK at­tained Level 2 or higher in math­e­mat­ics. This means they were able to in­ter­pret and recog­nise how sit­u­a­tions can be math­e­mat­i­cally rep­re­sented. Some 83% of stu­dents at­tained Level 2 or higher in sci­ence, mean­ing they can recog­nise the cor­rect ex­pla­na­tion for fa­mil­iar sci­en­tific phe­nom­ena. Com­ment­ing on the UK’s re­sults, Kevin Court­ney, Joint Gen­eral Sec­re­tary of the Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion Union, said: “The find­ings re­flect an ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem be­fore the mar­ket re­forms in­tro­duced by for­mer Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Michael Gove and pur­sued by sub­se­quent Sec­re­taries of State. “Stu­dents in the UK should be con­grat­u­lated on their per­for­mance in English, maths and sci­ence which re­flect their hard work and that of their ed­u­ca­tors.”

One in seven dis­ad­van­taged stu­dents scored in the top quar­ter of per­for­mance in read­ing, in­di­cat­ing that dis­ad­van­tage is not des­tiny

ad­van­taged So­cio-eco­nom­i­cally stu­dents out­per­formed their dis­ad­van­taged peers by 80 score points in read­ing

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