Tuesday 3 December 2019 12:30 pm

English pupils improve at maths in latest Pisa tests

Pupils in England have shown a considerable improvement in mathematics, according to the latest Pisa test data released today.

A new report from the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) shows that 15-year-old pupils in England performed significantly better in maths in 2018 than in 2015.

However, it also found that 66 per cent of pupils described themselves as “sometimes or always feeling worried.”

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Pisa tests are set by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as a way to compare teenagers’ basic skills across the world.

A higher proportion of students performed at the highest Pisa proficiency levels for maths, whilst a lower proportion worked at the lowest levels.

In science and reading, pupils in England performed well above the OECD average, and were outperformed by only 10 and nine countries in the respective categories.

But they have made no improvement in those two subjects for the last 13 years, according to the influential international study.

Scores in England were also significantly higher than in the rest of the UK in science and maths, with scores of 507 and 504 considerably above the OECD average of 489.

By contrast, mean scores in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland were much closer to the OECD average for the two subjects.

The report also singles out the decline in Scotland’s maths and science performance for particular attention, saying its scores have declined “significantly” since 2006.


The analysis found that headteachers in Scotland reported more problems with pupil truancy and teacher absenteeism than those in the rest of the UK, which may have contributed to the fall in standards.

In addition, the research shows that the proportion of pupils who succeed academically despite their socioeconomic background – those deemed “academically resilient”, was larger in England than OECD countries on average.

On average, pupils in England were found to be “less satisfied with their lives than pupils across the OECD countries.”

National Foundation for Educational Research chief executive Carole Willis said: “Pupils in England have continued to perform well in reading and science and have made significant improvement in maths. What requires further analysis and consideration is pupils’ perception of their wellbeing.

“While most pupils were happy, pupils in England were more likely to have negative feelings than pupils across the OECD countries, which raises questions which need further investigation.”

Education secretary Gavin Williamson said “more rigorous” primary school assessments meant more pupils were studying core academic subjects at GCSE.

“The PISA results are encouraging – particularly in maths – and provide yet more proof that the Conservative’s education reforms are working,” he said.

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“The choice at this election is clear. The last time Labour were in Government the UK fell down the PISA rankings. 

“Corbyn’s Labour will inflict the chaos of two referendums distracting them from focusing on improving our education system. A Conservative majority government will get Brexit done and invest £14 billion in our schools over the next three years, so that every child is given the best start in life.”

John Cope, head of education and skills policy at the CBI, said:

“This year’s results confirm the UK is outperforming the PISA average, but there are some clear areas where improvement must happen.  Young people’s ability and potential is evenly spread across the country, yet opportunity for them to succeed is not.

“UK firms rightly want a world-class education system focusing on young people’s academic ability, as well as developing their character and emotional intelligence. Companies will therefore be concerned that the UK is below average on student’s life satisfaction scores.

“Whoever forms the next Government, they must focus on getting employers even more engaged in education and help underperforming areas level up across the country.”

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