UK falling in world rankings as teaching 'stagnates'

THE UK has slipped further down world education rankings as teenagers fall behind their peers in reading, maths and science, a new report has revealed.

Countries including Poland and Norway have overtaken the UK in the last three years as education here has "stagnated", according to a major study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Britain has fallen from 17th in 2006 to 25th last year for reading skills among 15-year-olds and from 24th to 28th place in maths.

Around half a million 15-year-olds from more than 70 countries took part in the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study 2009, with the results for 65 published.

The study assessed how students could use their knowledge and skills in real life, rather than just repeating facts and figures and each country is given a score for the different subject areas. The findings showed that the UK's score for reading and maths were in line with the OECD average while in science the UK did better than average and was ranked 16th out of 65.

China had the highest scores in all three subject areas.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said: "After 13 years of increased investment in education, when it was a political priority for the last Government, we still fall behind other nations. So we have got to ensure that we implement those lessons, and not every lesson here is necessarily comfortable for some people who are heavily invested in old ways of doing things.

"But unless we learn the importance of greater autonomy, sharper accountability, raising the prestige of the teaching profession, dealing with discipline in the bottom 20 per cent to 25 per cent of schools – unless we do those things, then in three years time there will be another, even more profound, PISA shock for this country's politicians."

Shadow Education Secretary Andy Burnham said: "People forget how bad things were: In 1997, half of all schools failed to reach the basic benchmark of 30 per cent of students getting five GCSEs graded A* to C, including English and Maths – that number is now fewer than one in 12. But in a competitive world there is no room for complacency. English schools are better today than they were in the 80s and 90s but of course we all want them to be among the best in the world. Thanks to the hard work of teachers, head teachers and support staff, we are heading in the right direction."