That’s a headline you didn’t read this week, which is a great shame, not least because it’s actually true.
Given their normal degree of accuracy and fairness I suppose it’s no surprise to see newspaper headlines like “Britain’s Stagnating Schools”, and “Anxious UK Pupils Lag Behind In Maths”. Most of our newspapers don’t need much excuse to beat up teachers, and they used the PISA reports to blast away at everything in sight.
No-one seemed to try very hard to make it clear that the information wasn’t gleaned across the whole school system, but related to tests given to 15-yearolds. Now in actual fact, pupils in primary schools in England really score rather highly in tests, regularly featuring in the top ten or better. I’ll say that again, in case any reporters are listening – primary pupil performance in England is “Very good”. I know that, because those are the words Stefano Pozzi – who’s the senior official at the DfE most responsible for leading the development of the new National Curriculum – used when he talked to a dozen of us earlier this year. The official NFER report states that “England’s performance at year 5 is amongst the best in the world and continues to improve”.
One of the countries we’re often enjoined to imitate is South Korea. There are lots of reasons why the Pacific Rim countries have such success rates, but I’m pretty certain one of the biggest is the culture that means that a quite astonishing 1.7% of the national GDP is spent on out-of-school additional tuition. That’s a cost equivalent to 80% of the total government expenditure on primary and secondary education. I suppose that as a One-To-One tutor I’m programmed to be particularly interested in this, but nearly three-quarters of South Korean children receive an average of seven hours a week of extra tuition; the government has recently been forced to pass a law that requires tutoring institutions to close by 10pm – otherwise students might still be studying in them at 1am.