Today’s PISA results have, quite rightly, provoked a vigorous debate about educational standards in the UK. In headline terms, out of a total of 34 countries, the UK scores 16th for reading, 19th for maths and 14th for science. PISA, the Programme for International Student Assessment, is run by the OECD every three years.
I hope the ensuing debate leads to some important lessons. The Sutton Trust, which campaigns for non-privileged students, has raised improving teacher performance in response to today’s report. Here at the TUC, we’ve criticised pointless shake-ups of schools by successive governments in recent years. The National Union of Teachers has highlighted how economic and social deprivation harms performance. The NUT has a point: we learned today that Shanghai has the world’s top performing education system, but Shanghai is a city – albeit a large one – not a country. If China as a whole had taken part, the story would have been different, as the massive gulf between richer and poorer areas of China would have been highlighted.