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Education in the media: 7 December 2016

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Exams and qualifications, Selective schools, Universities

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Today’s news review looks at how British pupils compare to their international counterparts, and coverage of the Higher Education and Research Bill.

International rankings

On Tuesday, 6 December, the OECD published the findings of its Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) from 2015.

The PISA studies are conducted every three years and test performance in science, maths and reading across 70 countries.  This study found that England and the UK continues to perform significantly above the OECD average in science, remains at the OECD average in mathematics and for the first time has performed above the OECD average in reading.

Our strong performance in science along with increasing pupil interest in science lessons and future careers in science is extremely encouraging. To coincide with this, the Government announced yesterday a £12 million boost to support science teaching in schools.

There was widespread media coverage across most print and online media outlets. The BBC, The Times, Guardian, the Independent and Daily Mirror all covered the story, with The Daily Telegraph, The Sun and Daily Mail reporting on how the UK’s performance demonstrates the need for grammar schools, as many of the countries that outperformed the UK boast more selective schools.

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said:

We want to make this a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few, and education is at the heart of that ambition.


Today’s findings provide a useful insight as we consider how to harness the expertise of selective schools in this country in the future. We know that grammar schools provide a good education for their disadvantaged pupils, which is why we want more pupils from lower income backgrounds to benefit from that.


We have set out plans to make more good school places available, to more parents, in more parts of the country. This includes scrapping the ban on new grammar schools, and harnessing the resources and expertise of universities, faith schools and independent schools.

Higher Education and Research Bill

Stephen Curry in the Guardian has written an opinion piece about the Higher Education Bill which was debated in the House of Lords yesterday. While he largely welcomes the changes the Bill has gone through, he says there needs to be further amendments to ensure the full benefits of the Bill are achieved.

Universities Minister Jo Johnson said:

The Higher Education and Research Bill  will deliver important reforms to ensure our world class higher education sector remains one of our greatest national assets and delivers for everyone. Since its introduction in May, I have been listening carefully to the views of students, universities, academics and parliamentarians and have tabled amendments for debate at Commons Report Stage.


These include being clear that it is for universities to decide which courses to open or close and ensuring that new regulator, the Office for Students, will always have a student representative on its board and will be responsible for monitoring the financial sustainability of higher education providers.


Read more about the Government’s £12 million to support science teaching in schools here.


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