PISA: Engagement, Attainment and interest in Science (PEAS)

This project will explore student and school level factors associated with achievement, engagement and interest in science among the 2016 GCSE cohort when they were aged 15 years.

Science attainment, attitudes and engagement are shaped by student background, school experience, social structures and expectations. However, despite the various small studies that explore these relationships, there is little understanding of how these influences combine. Improving our understanding of these processes is essential for underpinning policies and practices to improve science learning in schools.

While research undertaken by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and the Royal Society (2017) shows widening gaps in achievement associated with social disadvantage, no attempt has yet been made to explore or compare the effect of a range of school, system and student-level factors on achievement, interest and engagement.

This study aims to address this gap using the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015 data linked to the National Pupil Database (NPD).

This will allow the research team to investigate the effect of different teaching strategies in science classrooms and contribute to our understanding of student, school, and system level interactions in this critical pre-GCSE period.

The science performance of 15-year old students in the UK will be compared with students from other developed countries with a degree of shared cultural history to improve the external validity of findings.

Project details



Dr Mary Oliver, University of Nottingham

Professor John Jerrim, University College London

Grant amount and duration: 


January 2018 – March 2020