Decline In Science Attainment Among England’s Year 9 Pupils

The latest results of prestigious international tests indicate that there has been a significant decline in science achievement among 13- and 14-year-old students in England, marking the lowest score in more than two decades. The performance of students in year 9 has remained stable in the past, but the recent results showed a significant drop in their performance which is likely to raise questions among officials. The average science score in the country has dropped from 537 four years ago to 517, which is the lowest ever recorded score, and the percentage of students performing below the “low” benchmark has doubled since 2015. England is now ranked behind nine other countries, including Lithuania, Hungary, and Australia.

The UCL Institute of Education analyzed the results and stated that the reasons behind this decline are not clear and require further research. The tests, carried out every four years since 1995, aimed to compare maths and science achievement among students from two different age groups across 64 countries in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (Timss).

Results showed that the younger age group, composed of nine- and ten-year-old students in Year 5, performed as well as they did in 2015 in science whilst showed significant improvement in mathematics, achieving England’s best-ever performance. Overall, pupil achievement in both subjects was on average significantly higher than the Timss average scores, with pupil attainment in England lagging behind the highest-performing cohort of countries from Taiwan, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea.

The study found that there were wide gaps in achievement between the highest-performing and the most disadvantaged students in England. While student performance did not differ significantly between ethnic groups in mathematics, black students achieved significantly lower scores in science compared to other ethnic groups.

Experts suggest that the improvement observed in mathematics achievement among the younger age group could be linked to reforms in the curriculum and qualifications. However, the decline in science results might be due to a decrease in emphasis on science in primary school, following the end of formal testing.

Another important issue highlighted by the study is the differences in confidence levels towards maths and science between male and female students, with boys showing significantly higher confidence levels than girls in both the subjects, and in both year groups. Among year 5 pupils, 39% of boys felt very confident in maths, compared to only 24% of girls.

According to the School Standards Minister, Nick Gibb, this country’s continued strong performance in maths, including the significant improvement in attainment among year 5 pupils, is a reflection of the essential reforms that have been put in place to raise standards and guarantee that young people receive world-class education. However, he added that there is more to do in regards to science, such as the strengthening of the quality of teaching and increasing the number of young people studying STEM subjects in order to address deficit in STEM skills.


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    Bailey Williams is an educational blogger and school teacher who uses her blog as a way to share her insights and knowledge with her readers. She has been teaching for over 10 years and has a deep understanding of the school system and how to help students reach their goals. Her blog is packed full of helpful information and resources, so be sure to check it out if you're looking for help with your schoolwork!