How did English and Northern Irish pupils perform in the TIMSS?

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Trends in Maths and Science Survey (TIMSS) 2007

In the Trends in Maths and Science Survey (TIMSS) 2007, English 10 year-olds and 14 year-olds scored the highest marks among European countries in maths and science. Northern Irish pupils did not take part in 2007.

Trends in Maths and Science Survey (TIMSS) 2011: Maths

Northern Irish 10 year-olds were 6th and English 10 year-olds were 11th= out of 57 participants in TIMSS 2011. (Note: some participants were not whole countries but jurisdictions such as US states. The word “countries” refers to whole countries not these jurisdictions.)

The relative position of English pupils fell although the score rose by one point (a statistically insignificant amount). TIMSS still ranks England among the top ten countries for primary maths. Northern Ireland did not enter pupils for the 2007 TIMSS tests so there can be no relative ranking between 2007 and 2011.

Northern Ireland did not enter pupils for the 2011 TIMSS tests for 14 year-olds. The performance of English pupils fell – English 14 year-olds are now placed with average TIMSS performers such as Finland (a top performer in PISA tests) and USA. England is one of several participants, including USA, Sweden and Hong Kong, where the high performance of primary pupils in TIMSS tests is not sustained into secondary school.

Trends in Maths and Science Survey (TIMSS) 2011: Science

Although the performance of English pupils in TIMSS 2011 science tests remains high, their position at the top has fallen since 2007 when they were top of the European league at ages 10 and 14.

However, international rankings are “volatile” and performance shouldn’t be judged solely on league table position. English 10 year-olds scored significantly above the centre point of the international scale although eight countries, including Finland, USA and four Pacific Rim countries, scored significantly higher than England. Countries where the performance of 10 year-olds was similar to England’s include Hong Kong, Sweden and Germany. The 31 countries which scored significantly less included Slovenia, Australia and Northern Ireland where maths results had been particularly high.

The performance of English 14 year-olds in science has been consistently high since 1995. Only five countries scored significantly more in 2011: Singapore, Chinese Tapei, Korea, Japan and Finland. Five countries performed at a similar level including Slovenia, Hong Kong and USA. The 31 countries which scored significantly lower than England included Australia, New Zealand and Sweden.

Despite this strong showing at age 14, the score was actually lower than should have been expected based on the 2007 results. The 14 year-olds taking the 2011 TIMSS test would have been in the 2007 cohort so it’s possible to measure against expected performance. 14 year-olds in Hong Kong and USA also didn’t reach the level predicted at age 10.

Trends in Maths and Science Survey (TIMSS) 2015

Pupils in England performed, on average, significantly above the international mean in maths and science in both years 5 and 9 in TIMSS 2015.

In Northern Ireland, only 10 year-olds took part.  Pupils in Northern Ireland in TIMSS 2015 significantly outperformed 42 of the 50 participating countries in mathematics and were significantly outperformed by five countries.   The average score for science (520) is lower than for mathematics (570), although still above the TIMSS science international average .

30 November 2016