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How do we compare? International study reports back on England and Northern Ireland

1 December 2016

ASE welcomes the latest report published yesterday from The Trends in International Mathematics and Science (TIMSS). This is a longitudinal study involving 57 countries that compares understanding and attitudes towards both science and mathematics for Year 5 and Year 9 pupils. The study provides key insights into performance in England and Northern Ireland over a number of years.

ASE Chief Exectuive, Shaun Reason, commenting in the The Independent yesterday said “Science has not really declined so we’re keeping up with things but we could be better if there was greater emphasis on teachers being treated as proper professionals by Government. The issue is the lack of science teachers and the need to bring in teachers who are not qualified because of this shortage.”

Key concerns

A number of the report’s findings confirm our concerns regarding the impact of teacher shortages in science and the far reaching effects that this will have on pupil achievement. These include the following:

  • Compared to other countries head teachers in England are more likely to find it difficult to recruit teachers.
  • Teaching conditions in England remain challenging with low levels of job satisfaction, particularly for year 9 science teachers.[1] Whereas in Northern Ireland nearly all pupils had teachers who reported that they were satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs.[2]
  • In England, there exists a wider gap between more and less advantaged pupils than most other high performing countries.
  • In Northern Ireland the average score for science was lower than for mathematics, although still above the international average, its score has not changed significantly since 2011.[4]

Positive indicators

  • No significant gender differences in science in either year 5 or year 9 in either England or Northern Ireland.
  • England is in the second highest-performing group of countries for science, scoring highly for focus on academic performance and teacher confidence. Pupils appear to value, enjoy and feel confident in learning science compared to many of their international peers, with confidence correlating strongly with achievement.[5]
  • In England, pupils had more access to computers in class than their peers in other countries [6].

Read the Report

For further details see the full report on the DfE website TIMSS 2015: national report for England.

Further reading

TIMSS across the UK

The four countries of the United Kingdom are regarded separately. Northern Ireland and England chose to participate in the 2015 cycle. Northern Ireland also participated in TIMSS in 2011 and so comparisons can be made with this earlier survey. England has participated in all six cycles since 1995. Scotland has also participated in previous cycles.[7]


[1],[6] DfE TIMSS 2015: national report for England, pp146

[2],[4],[7] NFER Key insights from TIMSS 2015 (Northern Ireland) pp 4

[3],[5]  DfE TIMSS 2015: national report for England, pp 14

Article updated 2 december 2016 with minor edits