The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a worldwide study. It is completed across seventy-five developed countries and measures the performance of 15-year-old school pupils' in mathematics, science, and reading. Every three years the tabloids trumpet how poorly the UK countries do against chart toppers such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Finland. Although there are many grounds on which the tests can be questioned, the results have again been accompanied by a bout of hand-wringing, doubting the effectiveness of the British education system on grounds which do not resonate with the experience of students, parents and staff in the vast majority of our schools.
Last year students at Alexandra Park School were randomly selected to take this test as part of the English cohort. The students received no additional coaching. Indeed, the school played down the importance of these tests as the last thing a year 11 needs during their mocks is more stress. They sat the 3 hours of tests beginning at 7.00am on a cold December morning in the knowledge they could not even expect to receive results. Or so we thought.
Having encouraged the students involved to recognise the value of participating in such a huge research project, which provides all sorts of valuable information, it was initially concerning to see the negative coverage of the UK results this week. We hoped that the students wouldn’t connect the test that they had done to the stories in the media, that they wouldn’t feel that they had underachieved, and be deflated by the experience.
Last week we received the school’s results. It doesn’t include individual student results but remarkably this cohort of APS students topped the chart. Yes, that’s right they topped the chart. Their results were significantly better than each of the 75 countries that took part.
We have long known the performance of our students is outstanding. APS has previously been recognised as being world class. And we still have reservations about the value of PISA tests. But it is pleasing for the students involved to know that their achievements compare so favourably with students across the globe. And it turns out that our students did exceptionally well. In fact, their average performance far exceeded that in any of the seventy-five countries.