Claims that England has been plummeting down international pupil performance tables cannot be justified, a study has suggested.
Launching a White Paper in March setting out a radical reform programme for the schools system, the Government cited data showing English children were doing comparatively worse in science, literacy and maths.
However a study of English pupils' scores in international maths tests over the past 12 years by the University of London's Institute of Education found "no hard evidence" of any decline in comparative performance over time.
In a foreword to the White Paper, called The Importance of Teaching, Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg wrote: "In the most recent OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) Pisa (Programme for International Student Assessment) survey in 2006 we fell from fourth in the world in the 2000 survey to 14th in science, seventh to 17th in literacy, and eighth to 24th in mathematics.
"The only way we can catch up, and have the world-class schools our children deserve, is by learning the lessons of other countries' success."
Analysis by Dr John Jerrim pointed out that while the Pisa data indicated England was slipping down the tables, other research indicated that the maths scores of the country's 13 and 14-year-olds rose in comparison with other countries between 1999 and 2007.
England's changing position in international performance tables neither supports nor refutes policymakers' calls for reform, he said.