Thursday, September 16, 1999 Published at 11:16 GMT 12:16 UK
Measuring up to international competition
Pupils will sit two-hour papers in this international survey
A major project to measure levels of educational achievement is to be launched next year.
As the setting of targets and international comparisons of pupils' abilities become increasingly significant, the Office for National Statistics is setting up a long-term survey which will allow achievement in the UK to be compared with education systems around the world.
From March 2000, a random sample of 15-year-old pupils in 200 schools will be tested for abilities in English, maths and science. This will begin a nine-year cycle of testing, with a particular investigation into one of the three subjects every three years.
The survey, called the Programme for International Student Assessment, is supported by the Department for Education and Employment and will be comparable to tests being carried out in 30 countries around the world.
This will allow direct international comparisons of how schools in the UK are performing and the levels of education among young people approaching the school-leaving age.
These will not be tests for which pupils prepare - but are intended as snapshots of the average abilities of the age group. As such, there will be no league tables drawn from the results or any indication of how individual schools or pupils have performed.