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

Researchers: Dr Mary Oliver | Professor John Jerrim

Project overview

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.


  • Dr Mary Oliver
    University of Nottingham
  • Professor John Jerrim
    University College London

  • Cheryl Lloyd
    Programme Head, Education
    Nuffield Foundation
  • Director, Education
    Nuffield Foundation

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We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We are an open, collaborative and engaged funder that offers more than money. Through connecting the individual projects we fund, we strengthen their collective impact and give voice to an overarching narrative.