All UK schools are being offered the chance to participate in controversial tests designed to show how they compare to results in the world’s top-ranked schools systems.
The Pisa (Programme for International Student Assessment) test for schools’ will cost £3,550 a time and will be administered twice a year in the spring and autumn, starting next year. They are based on the global education rankings of the same name.
The tests in reading, maths and science are being sold to schools as allowing them to measure the extent to which their 15-year-old pupils are “prepared to succeed in a global economy”.
But their introduction is controversial as teaching unions are concerned that will be used by schools in prosperous areas to create rankings and marketing tools, “undermining the efficacy” of Pisa.
The OECD, the international organisation of developed nations which runs Pisa, has also admitted that the assessments the school tests will use are designed to measure the knowledge and skills that students have acquired outside as well as inside school.
But today Andreas Schleicher, OECD director of education and skills, said: “With this new Pisa-based test, schools will have the tools to see how they compare in relation to their peers in some of the world’s leading education systems.
“The idea for this test came from schools who were keen to understand how they stand in a global context and what they can learn from the best performing education systems internationally.”
England’s Department for Education has said that it will be up to schools to decide whether they wish to use the test, but that it is “supportive” of the scheme.
But John Bangs, who sits on the trade union advisory committee of the OECD, has noted that the tests are “very narrow”, warning that: “It is a big thing to say you are among the best schools in the world on the basis of tests in three subjects.”
Essex County Council is already encouraging its secondaries to take the tests, saying they will “benefit from the ability to assess performance, share best practice and improve learning across the county”.
The UK will be the second country in the world, after the US, where the tests are widely available to individual schools. They were piloted in Spain, Canada, the US, and the UK in 2013.
Australia and Japan are also said to have expressed an interest in them.
The National Foundation for Educational Research, which will run the tests in the UK for the OECD, said they will provide schools with “comprehensive feedback” on their performance and how it compares to national and international benchmarks.
They will also receive “tailored reports” giving “individualised tables and charts”; “examples of strategies, policies and practices from education systems around the world”; and “comparisons based on type of school and socio-economic circumstances”.
Schools that wish to participate in the spring 2015 round of tests will have to order them by November 21.