Commenting on the Trends in Maths and Science Study (TIMSS) report released today, Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:
“This report highlights the achievements made in maths and science education, with pupils in England performing significantly above international averages and increasing in performance since 2011 in both years 5 and 9. This is a testament to the work of our school leaders and their staff and it is particularly encouraging to see that English schoolchildren rate their maths and science education so highly compared to their peers in the highest-performing countries. They report that their teaching is engaging, that they like learning maths and science, that they are confident of their ability in these subjects, and that they value them.
“This is important because these positive responses are linked to higher achievement – not just in England, but across all countries. England’s teachers are succeeding not only at giving their students the necessary maths and science abilities but also at instilling a deeper appreciation that could lead to STEM careers.
“Sadly, however, this report makes it clear that problems with teacher recruitment are holding England back from the premier division of international performance. Schools leaders in England are more likely to report that maths and science vacancies are difficult to fill than the other countries included in this report. Around two-thirds of year 9 pupils were taught in schools where vacancies in both maths and science were either somewhat or very difficult to fill.
“These findings are backed up by last week’s Initial Teacher Training statistics, which showed a serious shortage in EBacc subjects – 84 per cent of the required Mathematics trainees were recruited and just 68 per cent for Computing.
“And this report once again raises concerns over teacher retention. Students in England are more likely to be taught by teachers with fewer years of experience than the average. England’s teachers are more likely to report challenging teaching conditions such as too many teaching hours and difficulty keeping up with curriculum changes. Job satisfaction among teachers in England is low compared to teachers in most other countries. All of which has a measurable impact on student attainment.
“The government must recognise the damage it is doing to the teaching profession and the ways in which it is holding back England’s performance. England has superb teachers who are achieving very highly for children. Pay them properly and treat them well.”