British schools slump in global league table

The UK is sliding down an international table measuring reading, maths and science standards around the world, a major report revealed yesterday.

The highly respected Pisa (Programme for International Student Assessment) showed Britain had slumped to 28th place in maths, 25th in reading and 15th in science. This compared to 24th, 17th and 14th place respectively the last time the survey was conducted four years ago.

In 2000, the year the survey began – carried out with tests in the three subjects on 15-year-olds – the UK was fourth in science, seventh in reading and eighth in maths.

Education Secretary Michael Gove immediately went on the offensive to say that millions of pounds invested in schools under Labour had not produced "value for money".

"Despite massive investment over the last 13 years we haven't been improving at the rate we should have been," he said.

Andreas Schleicher, from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which published the report, said it was more a case of the UK "stagnating" while other countries improved their performance.

Key reasons cited for the UK's lower position included the fact that the percentage of disadvantaged children who were improving their performance was lower than the international average – 22 per cent compared with 30 per cent.

Moreover nearly one in five children were at a level in both maths and English where their standards were so low that it was likely to cause them problems in gaining employment upon leaving school. "We call these students at risk," Dr Schleicher said. "They will find it tough to switch from education to work."

Dr Schleicher also said that discipline in some schools in the UK was hampering efforts to improve standards. In the least disciplined classrooms there was a 1.8 per cent bigger chance of children being low performers in the tests.

The only crumb of comfort for the UK is that more countries were studied this year – thus they were 29th out of 65 in maths compared with 24th out 54 in 2006.

A breakdown of the figures also revealed that Wales was bottom of all four UK countries in all three subjects – with an average score of 476 in the reading test compared with 495 for England (just above the international average of 492). There was no statistical difference between the performances of children in Scotland, Northern Ireland and England.

Mr Gove said the findings could lead to Wales reviewing its policies as it had abandoned national curriculum tests and league tables.

Britain's independent schools outshone their state school rivals. However, Dr Schleicher said this was down to their social intake rather any improved teaching quality. "There is a close relationship between social background and learning outcomes. Once social background is removed, their performance is similar," he said.

Mr Gove claimed the survey's findings were "a ringing endorsement of everything the Coalition Government wants to do in education".

"We've been attacked for requiring a greater degree of transparency about the way in which academic results are published," he added, "but it's clear that if you give schools a greater degree of freedom and you require the public posting of data, then you get the best results."

Sweden, which Mr Gove has said gave him the idea for his plans to set up "free schools" run by teachers, parents and charities, had slipped down the OECD rankings from 507 points in 2006 to 497 – just above average.

Internationally, the strongest performing countries were Hong Kong-China, Singapore, Canada, New Zealand and Japan.

The Chinese province of Shanghai took part for the first time and scored higher in reading than any other country in the world.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Administration Assistant / Apprenticeship Industry

£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity for an e...

Recruitment Genius: NVQ Assessor

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Private Training Provider off...

Day In a Page

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own
Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England