Results from the latest Trends in International Science and Mathematics Study (Timss) published this morning show that Year 5 and Year 9 pupils in England have boosted their scores in maths and science.
However improved results in other countries mean that despite higher scores England slipped slightly in the maths rankings from 9th to 10th place at the primary level and 10th to 11th place in secondary.
In science, 10-year-olds stayed in 15th place and 14-year-olds rose one place to come 8th.
But there is a wealth of other information behind the headline rankings about the experiences of students, teachers and headteachers in England and the 57 other countries that took part.
Here are eight key points from Timss today:
- Just 1 per cent of 14 year-old pupils in England spend three hours or more a week on maths homework, less than any other participating country, and 73 per cent say they spend less than 45 minutes a week on homework for the subject. On average, across Timss around 15 per cent of teens spend more than three hours a week on maths homework, but in Russia this rose to 43 per cent.
- The gender gap is closing. Timss looked at the 16 countries where 14-year-olds took part in Timss in both 1995 and 2015. Boys outperformed girls in 15 countries in science in 1995 but by 2015, this had dropped to just three countries. In the other 13 countries boys and girls were equal.
- Pupils in England are more likely to be taught by teachers with fewer years of experience than students in other countries. On average primary teachers in the study had 11 years’ experience in maths, compared to an international average of 17. Secondary maths teachers had 11 years of experience, compared to an international average of 16.
- Pupils like their maths teachers – at least in primary schools. The study found 73 per cent of 10-year-olds were taught maths by teachers they thought were “very engaging”, above the international average of 68 per cent. But in secondary just 38 per cent of 14-year-olds said their maths teachers were "very engaging", below the international average of 43 per cent.
- Confidence in maths wanes as children get older - 37 per cent of England’s ten-year olds say they are very confident at maths, above the international average (32 per cent). But only 15 per cent of 14-year-olds said the same thing, around the same as the international average of 14 per cent.
- Pupils in England are more likely to be taught in schools where the headteacher says there is a “very high emphasis” on academic success than those in any other country in Timss. More than one in four (26 per cent) of 14-year-old maths students were in these schools, compared to an international average of 7 per cent.
- Almost one in ten (9 per cent) of primary pupils in England are taught by teachers who say they have moderate to severe problems with school conditions and resources, 37 per cent are taught by teachers who say there are minor problems and 55 per cent by staff who say there are no problems.
- Almost a third (31 per cent) of 10-year-old pupils in England taking part in the maths tests said bullying happened monthly in their school and another 15 per cent said it happened weekly. At secondary level, a similar proportion (32 per cent) said bullying happened monthly, but just 6 per cent said it was a weekly occurrence. All the figures are within 3 percentage points of the international average for bullying.