Compare London's schools with Shanghai and Singapore, urges Pisa boss

7th March 2014 at 12:00


London's schools should be pitted against those of Shanghai and Singapore to see how they compare with their global rivals, the man behind the world's most influential school league tables has said.
Andreas Schleicher, who runs the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa), this week told MPs that he had been calling for Britain to collect data for his study on the performance of the capital city’s schools.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) official said that he expected they would show that London was doing better than the rest of the country, but had not matched the achievements of Shanghai in China and Asian “city states” like Singapore and Hong Kong at the top of the Pisa table.
“We have encouraged the UK actually to collect separate data for London like many other countries have [for their cities] already,” he told the Commons Education Select Committee.
“We believe that’s an interesting dimension to look at, to compare the performance of large cities.”
Mr Schleicher cited the London Challenge school improvement scheme – which led to a big rise in results in the capital when it ran from 2003-2011 – as an example of what a “constant focus” on schools with the greatest need could achieve.
Professor Dylan Wiliam, of the Institute of Education, has said that London has become the only capital city in the developed world where state schools have higher standards than those in the rest of the country.
But Mr Schleicher warned that the city would still probably not match the achievements of the systems that Pisa has portrayed as the best in the world.
“I would still, this is a guess that I make now, but I would still think that you would find a very large performance difference between Shanghai and the city of London,” he said.

“Probably London will outperform the rest of the country, I think there’s good national data for this. But when I look at your national data, you’re not going to be anywhere close to some of the city states.
“But I think it’s an interesting comparison that I think is well worth pursuing.”
John Bangs, chair of the Trade Union Advisory Committee’s Education Working Group at the OECD, said: "My view is that there is every argument for looking at enormous cities like Shanghai and London and looking at how they do. The issue as always with Pisa is to treat the data with a pinch of salt.”
Sir Michael Wilshaw, chief inspector of Ofsted, has highlighted regional variation as the major factor holding back England’s performance in the Pisa study. “If we’d put in London [independently], we’d have been right up there,” the former London head teacher told the same committee of MPs last month.
But an OECD paper published in 2012 suggested that in general, the performance of schools in large cities dragged down the UK’s Pisa position.
“Large cities are generally educational assets: in most countries, performance improves dramatically when only the scores of students in urban areas are considered, although this is not the case in some countries, such as Belgium, Slovenia, the United Kingdom and the United States,” the paper said.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We have no current plans to collect separate data for schools in London as part of the main Pisa study.

“London schools can do this if they choose to from this autumn when the OECD’s Pisa-based test for schools will be available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.”


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