Reclaiming the future: schools where children belong even in a volatile world


Kathryn Riley.

I’ve had to grit my teeth many times of late, before engaging with the ‘News’: the fragile and alien social and political landscape; the unfolding stories of the sexual abuse of our children and young people; the discourse of rage. My own email account has not been immune to messages which echo the shrill voice of bigotry.

When I visit schools, I ask children the question, ‘What does belonging mean to you?’ Answers over recent weeks – from youngsters in London, Luton and the Netherlands – have included: ‘It’s where you are safe and comfortable’; ‘It’s when you’re on the inside and working together’; ‘It’s when people tell you the truth and you can trust them’ – a prescient comment in the light of national distrust of politicians.

In this ‘post-truth’ world, the times may be gloomy and we may have to revisit battles we thought were long since won – about respect, equality, dignity. Yet a different world is Read more ›

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Posted in Leadership and management, Research matters, Teaching, learning, curriculum & assessment

PISA beyond the rankings: pupils’ aspirations and future plans

Nikki Shure

Once we move beyond the performance rankings produced by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) PISA test results, the data can reveal interesting comparisons of 15-year-olds across the globe along different dimensions. This includes pupils’ post-secondary school plans and aspirations. As part of the PISA tests, pupils fill out a background questionnaire, stating whether or not they expect to complete university and the job they expect to have at age 30. Since science was the focus of PISA 2015, the OECD explicitly looks at career aspirations in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) field.

Additionally, each country has the option to introduce a country-specific block of questions. In 2015, England, Wales and Northern Ireland pursued this option and asked participants some more specific questions about their plans for higher education. In this post, I focus on what PISA can tell us about young people’s aspirations and plans Read more ›

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Posted in International comparisons, Teaching, learning, curriculum & assessment

PISA Beyond the Rankings: Pupils’ Experience of Learning Science in the Classroom

Nikki Shure.

On 6 December, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released the latest wave of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). PISA is a two-hour test taken by 15-year-olds from over 70 countries and is used to benchmark pupils’ skills. Most of what gets reported focuses on country rankings in literacy, mathematics and science.

The fact that the 15-year-old PISA participants also fill out a detailed background questionnaire is often overlooked. They answer questions about their school and home situation, parents, teachers and plans for the future. This provides additional data and allows us to compare pupils from different countries beyond sheer performance measures. Read more ›

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Posted in Education policy, International comparisons, Teaching

Grade prediction system means the brightest, poorest students can miss out on top university places


Gillian Wyness

With UK tuition fees now among the highest in the world, but benefits from having a degree remaining substantial, choosing the right university has never been more important for young people. The government has tried to make this easier by offering more and more information not just on the university experience but on the quality of the institution and even the potential wage return students could reap.

Despite all these efforts to make the decision about where to apply as informed as possible, one issue remains: students still apply to university based on their predicted rather than actual qualifications. And these predictions are not always accurate.

Using information on university applicants’ actual and predicted grades and their university attended, obtained from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), I find only 16% of applicants achieved the A-level grades that they were predicted to achieve, based on their best 3 A-levels. My report for the UCU is published today.

Whilst the majority of predicted grades were within 1-2 points Read more ›

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Posted in Education policy, Further higher and lifelong education, Teaching, learning, curriculum & assessment

The ten key findings from PISA 2015

John Jerrim.

Today, the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) release results from the 2015 round of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Although the ‘country rankings’ take the headlines, there are many other (and often more interesting) findings once you scratch below the surface. In this blog2post, I provide a crash-course in ten other key findings for the UK from the latest wave of PISA data. For further details on any of these results, see the PISA 2015 national reports for England, Wales and Northern Ireland that I have co-authored.

1. Although average scores have remained stable in the UK, this masks some notable differences between the four countries over the last decade…

There has been no significant change in England’s average PISA score, in any subject, since 2006 (the first time point to which we can compare). However, average science scores have fallen by around 20 test points (two terms of schooling) in Wales, with a similar decline in mathematics scores between 2006 and 2015 in Scotland.

2. …but we shouldn’t (yet) read too much into the fall in science scores between 2012 and 2015

Undoubtedly, education in Scotland is likely to come under the microscope today, in part because of the pronounced decline in its 15-year-olds’ PISA science scores over a short Read more ›

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Posted in International comparisons, Teaching, learning, curriculum & assessment
This blog is written by academics at the UCL Institute of Education.

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