These are only provisional results from a study, and I only have the media highlights to go on, but it’s dismaying all the same:
“The overwhelming conclusion is that there are far fewer changes in mathematical attainment over a 32-year period than might be expected, or which have been claimed," researchers said.
Academics from King’s and Durham gave 3,000 secondary school pupils a test in algebra, ratios and decimals last year. Pupils aged 11 to 14 were given the same independent exam as young people sat in 1976.
“There is no evidence for significant improvement, or significant deterioration, of standards between 1976/7 and 2008,” researchers said.
“Although performance in some areas has improved it looks as if, when all the results are analysed, there will be little evidence for the sort of step-change in mathematical attainment which might be suggested by the claimed improvements in examination results.”
That sentence I’ve highlighted is politically inconvenient for almost everybody involved in the perennial debate on standards – surely we all know that kids have either got commendably brighter or disgracefully dumber!