NEW tests are to be made available to schools so they can weigh themselves up against the best performing nations in the world, the Welsh education minister has said.

Huw Lewis’s statement comes after last year’s global PISA test results for 2012, which showed Wales to still be the worst UK performing nation for maths, science and reading.

Mr Lewis told AMs yesterday that he wants all learners to develop the cognitive skills that PISA demands.

“I want our students to develop those problem-solving and reasoning skills that are demanded in the workplace and life,” he said.

Mr Lewis explained that the tests assess whether students can use their knowledge and apply it to real life situations.

“It emphasises the mastery of processes, the understanding of concepts, and the ability to function in various types of situations. In a nutshell, PISA tests the skills acquired in the classroom to real life problems,” he said.

He said that by 2015/16 the Welsh Government will begin to see some of its education reforms “bearing fruit”.

Mr Lewis announced that the Welsh Government has agreed that voluntary PISA-based tests for schools will be made available in Wales.

This would allow individual schools or clusters of them to benchmark themselves against the highest performing nations in the world.

“Together with confidential feedback from students on questions such as how much they enjoy school and the classroom environment, and school leaders about the educational practices in the schools, schools will be able to see how well they are doing compared with other similar schools,” said Mr Lewis.

Mr Lewis also said that there will be further analysis and planning conducted that is broader than the current PISA 2012 dataset, saying he wants to address evidence that pupils struggle to take tests.

“We will be developing a narrative that reinforces the link to a strong economy and the importance both to Wales and the individual of high skills,” he added.

Plaid shadow education minister Simon Thomas said: “The latest PISA figures show that the problems in our education system are large and deeply-rooted, and this needs to be met with large scale solutions.”