Teenagers are failing the acid test in sciences: Pupils in England are performing significantly worse in the subject than they were five years ago, international study finds
- Growing proportion of children were not meeting benchmarks even before virus
- Percentage of Year 9 pupils performing below international benchmark rose
- UK school standards minister acknowledged the ‘quality of science teaching’ needs to continue to improve
Teenagers in England are performing significantly worse in science than five years ago, an international analysis found.
Even before the virus, a growing proportion of children were not meeting benchmarks in the subject compared to 2015.
The percentage of Year 9 pupils – who are aged 13 to 14 and may have started GCSE material – performing below the international benchmark rose from 5 per cent in 2015 to 11 per cent last year. The report could not explain this change.
Teenagers in England are performing significantly worse in science than five years ago, an international analysis found (file photo)
Nine countries – including Australia, Hungary and Lithuania – performed significantly better than England’s pupils, four more countries than in 2015, the study found.
School standards minister Nick Gibb acknowledged the ‘quality of science teaching’ needs to continue to improve.
Pictured: School standards minister Nick Gibb
The study by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement studied 64 countries.
It found those in England performed better than most other countries in maths and science. And Year 5 pupils – aged nine to ten – improved their maths scores from 2015.
But pupils from a group of mostly East Asian countries – Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Japan, Republic of Korea, Russia, Singapore – have continued to consistently outperform England’s students.
Co-author Dr Tina Isaacs, from IoE, said: ‘Despite social concerns about the differences between boys’ and girls’ performance, the results show that they’ve performed largely at the same level in both subjects and both year groups.
‘However, girls still are less confident and don’t much like, mathematics and science.’
Even before the virus, a growing proportion of children were not meeting benchmarks in science compared to 2015 (file photo)
Co-author Dr Mary Richardson, from IoE, said: ‘This year we see England has performed, on average, significantly above most other countries.
‘Compared to the 2015 results, most notably, England’s performance in maths has significantly improved at Year 5 and decreased significantly in science at Year 9.
‘Longitudinal data like this can help us understand these trends and we will now seek to interpret why these trends have occurred.’
Mr Gibb said: ‘This country’s continuing strong performance in maths, including the significant improvement in attainment among Year 5 pupils, is testament to the hard work of teachers and a reflection of the reforms we have put in place to raise standards and ensure our young people are receiving a truly world class education.’
But he added: ‘We know there is more to do, including continuing to improve the quality of science teaching and increasing the number of young people studying science subjects, in order to address Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills shortages.’