Poor pupils more than two years behind in reading

New research published in a special issue of Fiscal Studies shows that the link between family background and high achievement is stronger in England than in most other developed countries.

The study uses data from the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and analyses the reading test scores of 15-year-old pupils in 23 countries.

The results show that high-achieving pupils from the lowest socio-economic groups in England are, on average, two-and-a-half years behind their wealthier peers. This is more than twice the gap found in in some other developed countries. Only the US, New Zealand, and Scotland have a bigger socio-economic gap than England in the reading test scores of high-achieving pupils.

The Government is attempting to improve the performance of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds by providing £10 million for projects to help those who fail to reach the expected level of English by the end of primary school (level 4 at Key Stage 2).The announcement comes as a response to last year’s Key Stage 2 results, which showed around 100,000 pupils in England failed to reach level 4 in English by the end of primary school.

Source: The socio-economic gradient in teenagers’ reading skills: How does England compare with other countries? (2012), Fiscal Studies, 33(2).

Citizenship education in Europe

This report from the Eurydice network summarises how policies and measures relating to citizenship education have evolved in recent years. Citizenship education has gained prominence in teaching across Europe, with 20 of the 31 countries (EU Member States, Iceland, Norway, Croatia, and Turkey) dedicating a separate compulsory subject to its teaching.

The report focusses in particular on curriculum aims and organisation; student and parent participation in schools; school culture and student participation in society; assessment and evaluation; and support for teachers and school heads.

Citizenship features on the curriculum in all countries, but the authors say that more needs to be done to improve teachers’ knowledge and skills for teaching it. In general, citizenship education is integrated into initial teacher training courses for secondary education in subjects such as history and geography, but only England and Slovakia offer training as a specialist teacher in citizenship education.

Source: Citizenship education in Europe (2012), Eurydice

Realising the potential of immigrant students

A report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) looks at the educational achievement of immigrant children and how it can be improved, drawing on results from the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

The report shows that performance gaps between immigrant and non-immigrant pupils vary across countries, and it recognises that integrating immigrant pupil populations poses significant challenges to the quality and equity of schools in OECD countries. It suggests that by reinforcing language-learning policies, ensuring a more balanced social mix in schools, and focusing on content specific to immigrants, schools can improve the educational achievement of immigrant children. However, education policy alone is unlikely to fully address these challenges, and changes to social policy may also be necessary.

Source: PISA – Untapped skills: realising the potential of Immigrant students (2012), PISA

Does paying teachers based on performance improve teaching?

Performance-based pay is worth considering in some contexts, but making it work well can be a challenge, according to a recent PISA in focus review, which looks at the effects of performance-based pay for teachers on pupil performance. It shows that in countries with comparatively low teachers’ salaries in relation to national income, using performance-related pay results in better pupil performance, while in countries where teachers are relatively well paid, the opposite is true.

The report also highlights challenges to making a performance-based pay system work well, and the need to have valid measures of performance in place if the system is to be fair and accurate. It emphasises that pay can only play a part, and countries that have made teaching an attractive profession have done so by raising the status of teaching and offering real career prospects, and not through pay alone.

Source: Does performance-based pay improve teaching? (2012), PISA in focus, 12

How does the social attainment gap in England compare with other countries?

Using findings from an OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) study on the impact of socio-economic background on pupil performance this report from the Department for Education summarises how the social attainment gap in England compares with other countries.

It looks at:

  • How the OECD measure pupils’ socio-economic backgrounds in PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment);
  • The distribution of pupil attainment in England and how this compares with countries internationally;
  • The association between pupils’ socio-economic backgrounds and attainment in England and how this compares with countries internationally;
  • How social gaps reported in PISA compare to the gap reported between pupils known to be eligible for free school meals and their peers in England; and
  • How average attainment reported by PISA is affected when we control for pupil background.

One of the findings of the report is that England is not the only country in which socio-economic status has a high impact on attainment. This is also true for some high-performing PISA participants, in particular, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, and Belgium.

Source: PISA 2009: how does the social attainment gap in England compare with countries internationally? (2012), Department for Education

Entrepreneurship education in European schools

Europe faces a number of challenges that can only be met if it has innovative, well-educated, and entrepreneurial citizens, according to the Eurydice Network, which surveyed entrepreneurship studies in primary and secondary education in 31 European countries. Their analysis is divided into four areas:

  • National strategies and action plans to encourage the integration of entrepreneurship education;
  • How entrepreneurship education is currently being addressed;
  • Specific learning outcomes defined for entrepreneurship education and practical guidelines to support teachers; and
  • Initiatives to promote entrepreneurship education and current educational reforms on the subject.

The results of the survey show that two-thirds of European countries incorporate entrepreneurship education into the curriculum at primary education level, but that this changes significantly in secondary education, where virtually all countries integrate it into the curriculum in some form.

Source: Entrepreneurship education at school in Europe: National strategies, curricula and learning outcomes (2012), Eurydice