Improvement in Pisa rankings – Friday 6 December 2019

This week I report on the publication of the Pisa tests results and the UK’s improvement in the rankings and a Sutton Trust report analysing the GCSE reforms and the disadvantage gap.

Improvement in Pisa rankings but well-being falls
The UK rankings in reading, maths and science have risen according to the results of the Pisa tests released earlier this week.

For reading, the UK has risen to 14th, up from 22nd in the tests three years ago, whilst in science it progressed one ranking to 14th. Maths made the biggest gains moving from 27th to 18th, putting the UK in the top 20 for all three measurements.

The Pisa tests are run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development every three years to test the ability of 15-year-olds in reading, maths and science. The tests are seen by some as an important measure of how the UK compares internationally.

Despite the positive outcomes for students’ achievements, the tests found that UK teenagers had some of the lowest levels of life satisfaction, dropping 13 percentage points from the last tests. Students were more likely to say that they felt ‘worried or miserable’ regularly and were less likely to see ‘meaning’ in their lives.

Sutton Trust report analyses the GCSE reforms and the disadvantage gap
Recent changes to GCSEs, including tougher exams and a new grading system, have led to a slight widening of the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their classmates, according to new research published by the Sutton Trust this week.

Making the Grade, by Professor Simon Burgess from the University of Bristol and Dave Thomson of FFT Education Datalab, found that during the period of the reforms, test scores for disadvantaged pupils fell slightly compared to their classmates, by just over a quarter of a grade across nine subjects.