It will be down to secondary schools themselves to decide if they take part in the new PISA tests next year, the Department for Education (DfE) has said.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) this week confirmed that it is to launch a version of its PISA test which will allow individual schools in England to benchmark themselves against the world’s top education systems.
PISA stands for the Programme for International Student Assessment and up until now the tests have only been used to compile global rankings of education systems.
PISA examines how 15-year-old students perform across reading, mathematics and science and the main test is conducted every three years, with around 65 countries or economies taking part, including the UK.
However, the OECD confirmed that the new “PISA-Based Test for Schools” is to be launched in 2014, enabling England’s schools to put themselves forward for comparison against the world’s best – countries such as Finland, Shanghai, Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore.
As well as focusing on reading, maths and science, the test for schools will involve students giving confidential feedback on questions such as how much they enjoy school and the classroom environment.
The OECD said: “Together with information from the school leaders about the educational practices in the schools, this will allow them to see how well they are doing compared with other similar schools.”
The OECD has also confirmed that individual school results will not be made public and that individual schools will not be ranked against one another.
The DfE this week said that it would not force schools to take the test, but did say that it was an “excellent opportunity”.
Education minister Elizabeth Truss said: “It is down to secondary schools themselves to decide whether they want to take part in these tests run by a highly respected, independent organisation.
“We see this (as) an excellent opportunity for schools to compare themselves against the world’s best education systems – and potentially against other schools from around the world.
“Some forward-thinking local authorities are already showing they want to be involved, particularly Essex County Council which sees the benefits of their schools taking part.”
Andreas Schleicher, deputy director for education and skills at the OECD, said: “This new test will enable individual schools in England for the first time to see where they stand internationally.
“This will help teachers and school leaders understand where to focus their efforts to raise standards and learn from successful school systems in other countries.”
The test is to be administered and marked externally with students being given two and a half hours to complete the test and the questionnaire. A minimum of 75 pupils will be tested at each school with the final outcomes focusing on the school as a whole, rather than ranking individual students.
For details, visit www.oecd.org/pisa/pisa-basedtestforschools