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China's poorest children outperform UK's middle class in international maths tests

The children of cleaners in Shanghai and Singapore outperform those of UK doctors and lawyers in global maths tests, research has shown.

Analysis of international data shows the UK is lagging far behind a number of Asian areas.

It suggests that some areas - particularly in east Asia - are better than others in helping all youngsters succeed, regardless of their background.

The report, by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), looked at the maths results and background of more than half a million 15-year-olds who took part in the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) study.

The OECD study assesses how students would be able to use their maths knowledge and skills in real life, rather than just repeating facts and figures.

It comes just a week before Elizabeth Truss, education minister, will lead a delegation of English headteachers and education experts to China on a fact-finding mission. 

The latest analysis found that in the UK, the children of parents with a "professional" job - such as doctor or lawyer - scored 525.94 points on average in the Pisa maths test.

In Shanghai, China, the sons and daughters of parents with "elementary" occupations - such as cleaners and catering assistants - scored 568.9 points on average. In Singapore, this group scored 533.58 points.

In the UK children of "elementary" occupation workers fall far behind other groups, with an average score of 460.61, the findings show.

In Shanghai, the sons and daughters of "professional" workers scored an average of 656.06, and in Singapore this group scored 609.45.

The report concludes: "In the United States and the United Kingdom, where professionals are among the highest-paid in the world, students whose parents work as professionals do not perform as well in mathematics as children of professionals in other countries - nor do they perform as we as the children in Shanghai, China, and Singapore whose parents work in manual occupations."

Andreas Schleicher, deputy director for education and skills at the OECD, said: "This all boils down to a relatively simple message: if school systems want all of their students to succeed in school, they should give the children of factory workers and cleaners the same education opportunities as the children of doctors and lawyers enjoy."

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