English schools are found to be among the best in the world

11th December 2012 at 11:04

England is rising up the rankings in reading, with the nation's best readers as good as the very best in other parts of the world, according to the first details from two highly important international research studies.

But England has slipped in science results and there appears to have been a plateauing in pupils performance in maths.

The latest Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (Timms) and Progress in International Reading Literacy (Pirls) reports compare standards in the three subjects around the world.

They are important because education secretary Michael Gove has placed a lot of weight on international comparison research studies when justifying his programme of reforms to English schools such as academies.

The findings are based on tests taken by hundreds of thousands of pupils in different nations and jurisdictions - such as cities - in May and June 2011.

Pirls shows England is now joint 10th out of 45 countries in reading at 11, compared to 19th in the 2006 edition of the survey. However this country does have a slightly longer tail of underperformance than many other high-performing countries.

The Timms study, meanwhile, suggests that among 10-year-olds England has fallen to 15th out of 50 in science, compared with seventh out of 36 four years ago - the last time the study was conducted.

England's score for science at age 10 was 529, compared with 542 in 2007. This is still above the Timms average of 500, and puts England behind nations such as Korea.

At age 14 in science, England has dropped to ninth place out of 42 areas, compared with fifth out of 45, four years ago.

In maths, England's 10-year-olds came ninth out of 50 nations and jurisdictions, compared with seventh out of 36 in 2007, while among 14-year-olds England was placed 10th out of 42, compared with seventh out of 45 in 2007. The study suggests that England still has above average scores in maths - at 542 for 10-year-olds and 507 for 14-year-olds - and these are similar to four years ago, but other countries' scores are improving.

Education minister Elizabeth Truss said: "We must produce a workforce that is literate, and strong in maths and science, able to be successful in a highly competitive global jobs market, and attract the high-quality jobs that will secure the future of our economy.

"That is exactly what our reforms are designed to achieve."

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