England's 15-year-olds' reading is more than a year behind the best

Published on Wednesday, 12 October 2011 15:47
Posted by Scott Buckler

GCSE pupils' reading is more than a year behind the standard of their peers in Shanghai, Korea and Finland, research reveals today


Fifteen-year-olds in England are also at least six months behind those in Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and Australia, according to the Department for Education's (DfE) analysis of the OECD's 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study.

To match the attainment of pupils from Shanghai in the reading assessment:

The proportion of England's pupils achieving five A*-C grades (including English and maths) at the end of Key Stage 4 would need to increase by 22 percentage points.
For all maintained schools in England this would be an increase from 55 per cent of pupils achieving the threshold measure (in 2010) to 77 per cent.

The DfE's PISA 2009 Study: How Big is the Gap? highlights how far England has slipped behind other nations in reading.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said that the Government was taking urgent action to ensure England could match those countries which had closed the gap between the achievements of rich and poor pupils, while raising the attainment of all.

He said:

The gulf between our 15-year-olds' reading abilities and those from other countries is stark – a gap that starts to open in the very first few years of a child's education. The Government's focus on raising standards of reading in the early years of primary school is key to closing that gap.

We are introducing a phonics check for six-year-olds, so those with reading problems can be identified before it is too late and can be given the extra help they need to catch up.

Having learnt to read, they can then go on to read to learn, and to read for pleasure. Almost 40 per cent of pupils in England never read for enjoyment. The difference in reading ability between these pupils and those who read for just half an hour a day is equivalent to a year's schooling at age 15.

We are also bringing in a new spelling, punctuation, grammar and vocabulary test for 11-year-olds and are re-introducing marks for spelling, punctuation and grammar in relevant GCSE exams.

Nick Gibb added:

Our writers – Charles Dickens and Charlotte Brontë, George Orwell and Ian McEwan – are the finest in the world. It is time we are also among the best readers in the world.

The DfE analysis also calculates the reading gap in terms of GCSE grades. It puts Shanghai's 15-year-olds the equivalent of 11 GCSE grades ahead of our pupils, while Korea's are eight grades better off. Those in Finland and Hong Kong are seven grades ahead.

This means that while a typical pupil at the end of Key Stage 4 in England achieves eight C grades in their best eight GCSEs or equivalent exams, one in Shanghai would score three As and five Bs in their best eight GCSEs – a total of 11 grades better off.

Source: DFE

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