English policymakers have been disappointed with children’s performance on TIMSS and PISA, particularly in comparison to the results of young people from East Asia. In this paper we provide new insight into the England – East Asia gap by considering how cross-national differences in math test scores change between ages 10 and 16. Our results suggest that, although average math test scores are higher in East Asian countries, this gap does not increase between ages 10 and 16. Thus, reforming the secondary school system may not be the most effective way for England to ‘catch up’. Rather earlier intervention, during pre-school and primary school, may be needed instead.