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Pupils 'lag behind international peers'

pupils Image copyright Thinkstock Image caption The Centre Forum study looks at a range of factors surrounding education in England

Children in England's schools are not performing as well as their peers around the world, a report has found.

The Centre Forum says pupil attainment is improving, but still falls short of the world's leading countries in education such as Finland and Canada.

The study also says that, while ahead at the age of five, white British pupils fall behind those from ethnic backgrounds by the age of 16.

The government welcomed the report, saying it was right to raise standards.

The Centre Forum study, which looks at a wide range of factors surrounding education in England, acknowledges that pupil attainment in primary and secondary schools in England is improving.

But the analysis shows that more than 60% of secondary and 40% of primary pupils are failing to reach world-class standards on writing, literacy, maths and science.

Accounting for changes to exams, which will see more academic subjects become mandatory and a new grades system, it predicts a drop in those achieving a "good pass" in subjects like maths and English.

It also shows regional division with secondary pupils in London outperforming their counterparts in the north of England.

However data for younger children shows they are achieving a good level of development in line with the top-performing countries.

The researchers found that white British children were among the top three highest achieving groups at the age of five.

But by the time they reach GCSEs, this group's performance slips to 13th place behind children of Chinese, Indian, Asian and black African heritage among others.

Jo Hutchinson, Centre Forum's associate director for education, said parental engagement was key to pupils' success.

"We are talking about things such as parents attending parents' evenings at school, talking to their children about subject options, supervising homework, ensuring that the family eats together and has regular bedtimes," she said.

"Those sorts of things appear to be more associated with this effect than pure aspirations. It's not just aspirations, but behaviours that support the aspirations.

"Most parents actually want their children to continue in education and be successful in education. What sometimes differs is the extent to which they have the knowledge and the tools and resources to help them to make that aspiration real."

Image copyright Thinkstock Image caption The report says younger children achieve a good level of development

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "We welcome this report which shows the stark choice we face in education today - either we prepare today's young people to compete with the best in the world, or we don't.

"That's why we've taken the decision to set the new GCSE 'good pass' in line with the average performance in high-performing countries such as Finland, Canada, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

"Every time we have raised the bar for schools and colleges they have risen to meet the challenge and we are confident that this is no exception.

"Over time we expect to see more pupils reach this new higher standard and the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers continuing to narrow."

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