Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills
Printable version E-mail this to a friend

OECD: Educational Performance Report highlights positives at every stage of education

OECD: Educational Performance Report highlights positives at every stage of education

DEPARTMENT FOR INNOVATION, UNIVERSITIES AND SKILLS News Release (Higher Education) issued by COI News Distribution Service. 9 September 2008

Education Ministers Bill Rammell and Andrew Adonis today welcomed the progress shown in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) Education at a Glance report and reaffirmed the UK's commitment to a world class education for everyone.

The Ministers pointed to positive analysis across the education system - from pre-primary education to higher education - which, in addition to a raft of positive reforms, such as the new Diploma, and an expansion of the apprenticeships scheme, point to a bright future for those in education and learning today.

Education at a Glance 2008 highlights:

* The UK comes fourth out of 30 OECD countries for per-pupil funding in early years and enrolment is far above the OECD average;

* Teacher salaries at primary school level are above the OECD average;

* Secondary school class sizes are below the OECD average;

* The rate of increase for teacher salaries is above the OECD average;

* The UK has the highest private rate of returns to upper secondary education or post-secondary non-tertiary education;

* High completion rates of full degree courses which results in a flow of graduates that remains above the OECD average and the UK continues to be an attractive destination to foreign students, especially in science and technology subjects, and is only second to the USA overall;

* The UK has the 6th highest number of science graduates per 100,000 employed aged 25-34, placing us ahead of Japan and Germany.

The OECD said:

"Indicators show that, overall, educational performance in the United Kingdom remains strong, with significant progress in early childhood participation as well as an above-average graduate output in higher education, particularly in science, that accrues high labour-market returns. The UK has also increased its investment in education consistently and strategically, with more money directed to attracting better qualified teachers rather than solely into lowering class sizes."

Minister for Schools, Andrew Adonis, said:

"I am delighted that we can point to positive findings across the education system as a result of this report. From early years to adult skills, the OECD has confirmed that we are targeting investment well and sticking with policies that work.

"We are at the beginning of an exciting period of change that I am sure will see even further success. Last week saw the first lessons in the new Diplomas, we have extended the September Guarantee to 17-year-olds, we have a new, exciting secondary curriculum and the Early Years Foundation Stage, all of which give a solid grounding and exciting opportunities to young people.

"I'm also pleased that the OECD has recognised the high quality of our teachers. It is right that we focus on attracting the best talent in the right subjects to help every child succeed. It is good too that independent evidence shows we are rewarding our teachers very well.

"The early years are crucial to a child's development and their future prospects. That is why we are putting in place the services in every community that can give every child the very best possible start in life and at pre-primary level we invest more per-pupil than almost any other country.

"Since 1997, the numbers of 16-24 year olds in full time education, employment or training have increased from 5.2 million to 5.8 million. Today's OECD data confirms, although it is for 2006, that we must do more to increase staying on in education when compared to our international partners. That is why, alongside increased investment in skills and training, we are legislating to ensure everyone has to stay in education or training until they are 18.

"Children starting secondary school this September will be the first cohort to stay on in education or training until they are 17. A recently published report by Ofsted on the implementation of the 14-19 reforms is showing that 14-19 strategies are having a positive impact in raising achievement, increasing participation and retaining learners in education and training."

Commenting on the data relating to Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education, Bill Rammell, said: "The OECD figures highlight the high quality of our higher education system and UK graduates still enjoy a better return on their investment than most OECD countries.

"This is at a time when record numbers of students from all social classes are choosing to go into higher education and reap the benefits this brings. The government has abolished upfront payment of fees and this year two thirds of students are expected to benefit from a full or partial grant of up to £2, 835 per year.

"I am very encouraged to see that we are producing a high proportion of science graduates which justifies the £75 million investment we have made to support key science subjects. The UK is still a popular destination for international students, second only the USA.

"Having a workforce with gradate level skills has never been more important to the economic success of our country and this report shows that the number of skilled jobs still outnumbers the supply of students with higher education qualifications which is why we are committed to increasing participation.

"The UK enjoys one of the highest adult participation rates in the EU and we are continuing to increase the numbers of people acquiring the skills they need. The OECD recognises the progress we have made in getting more people in this country with skills at GCSE level (level 2). However as is widely recognised there are still too many people who do not have these skills. This is why we have concentrated funding towards schemes like skills for life to help people without basic literacy and numeracy skills. Gaining these skills means improved employment and income prospects for these learners, benefiting their families, communities and the wider economy.

"Although we are starting from a low base, the UK has made faster improvements to its skills base than other major economies. Over the last year we have introduced a range of policies to support many more people to gain the skills they need to get a job and get on at work. We have put in place measures to expand apprenticeships, having already more than doubled them since 1997, through our flagship service Train to Gain; we have committed to increase funding for employers to up skill their workforce for free to at least GCSE level (level2) and we are creating the conditions to enable more people to access learning and skills at work through our proposals for a new right for employees to request time off to train.

"These reforms and our continued commitment to do all we can to ensure that people have the skills they need, will help make Britain's workforce one of the most skilled in the world by 2020."

Education at a Glance is based on data compiled for 2006 and earlier and shows:

Early Years - the UK invests more money than most other countries per child in the early years.

Our investment in early years education is transforming the life chances of young people. Our commitment to the expansion of Sure Start Children's Centres and high quality early learning means that every child has the best start in life. We are continuing to invest heavily in young children and families, especially the most disadvantaged, through an investment programme of more than £4bn for the period up to 2011."

Under current plans the proportion of GDP spent on education is expected to rise from 4.7 per cent of GDP in 1996-97 to 5.6 per cent in 2007-08. The amount of money spent on education has risen by more than 60% in real terms since 1996-97.

Primary - spending on education per pupil is above the OECD average. Standards in English and mathematics in our primary schools have never been higher. Over the last ten years there has been substantial and sustained improvement - compared to 1997, 100,000 more 11 year olds are achieving the target level for their age in English and 90,000 in Maths.

The report also states that the UK has primary class sizes above the OECD average. However, there has been a downward trend since 1997 in the average class size along with improvements in the pupil to adult ratio over the same period. Since 1997 we have recruited an additional 36,000 teachers in English schools.

In 1998, the Government introduced a statutory infant class size limit for English schools of no more than 30 pupils to a qualified teacher. Although the policy targets infant classes - where research showed there would be greatest benefits in having smaller teaching groups - it has also had a beneficial effect on other year groups. There are over 100,000 fewer children aged 8 - 11 in classes of over 30 than there were in 2001.

Further Education and Skills - The OECD report makes clear that participation post-16 in 2006 was low in comparison to other nations but that in terms of the long-term trend we are making progress towards tackling this issue.

The OECD also found that participation at age 20 and for the 20-29 age group as a whole are slightly above the OECD average. The UK has one of the highest participation rates of 30-39 year olds across all OECD countries.

We are radically changing the skills system and investing in training that will deliver the skilled and qualified workforce our economy needs. In the Government's response to the Leitch review on skills (World Class Skills), we set out our commitment to improve skill levels to the upper quartile of OECD nations by 2020. We are focusing our investment on areas of market failure at level 2 and 3 and although we are starting from a low base, the UK has made faster improvements to its skills base than other major economies.

A range of measures are in place to radically reform the skills system to make it more responsive to the needs of individuals and employers and to boost participation levels and meet the skills needs of the economy. We are introducing simpler, more coherent, high quality employer-led vocational and occupational routes to attract more young people into higher levels of training and skilled employment. This includes:

* Raising the participation in education and training age to 18;

* introducing new specialised diplomas in 14 sector areas , which began this year;

* reforming Apprenticeships with an increased focus on quality and linking them to Foundation Degrees, providing a 'vocational ladder' of opportunity from pre level 2 to Higher Education.

* Train to Gain for those in employment wishing to upskill

Higher Education

The OECD report reaffirms the value of UK higher education. UK graduates enjoy a better return on their investment than those in most OECD countries. The UK maintains a prominent position within the global education market. We will continue to move towards our goal of increasing participation in higher education towards 50% of 18-30 year olds by 2010.

The report highlights that:

* the UK has one of the highest entry rates for 'vocational' tertiary education;

* high completion rates result in a supply of new graduates that is still above the OECD average despite the UK being average for enrolment;

* the UK continues to be attractive to overseas students - second only to the US - particularly in science and technical subjects;

* the number of science graduates has increased - and there is a high proportion of science graduates among the young employed.


1. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report 'Education at a Glance - OECD Indicators 2008' is published on 9 September 2008. The report is an annual publication that compares international levels of participation, attainment and spending among OECD member states.

2. Average class sizes can be found at:

3. 'The OECD Economics Directorate assessed countries for the indicator on spending efficiency by analysing a country's educational institutions, structures and decision-making processes. They did not analyse financial inputs against educational outcomes.

4. World Class Skills' report can be found at