Education: Maths claims do not add up

Government claims that maths standards in primary schools are rising were challenged yesterday by research suggesting there has been no improvement for eight years. Researchers at Manchester University say their study shows maths standards have remained stable despite billions spent on the national curriculum since its introduction in 1989. Some pupils may even be being held back, they claim.

The report questions the reliability of national curriculum tests, the present means of judging the standard of maths. According to those tests, which can be adjusted to reflect changes in the national curriculum, 44 per cent of 11-year-olds reached expected standards in 1995, rising to 54 per cent in 1996 and 62 per cent this year. The research, published in today's Times Educational Supplement, challenges the Government's pledge that by the end of this parliament, in 2002, three out of four 11-year- olds will be competent in maths.

Researchers looked at maths results achieved by six- and 11-year-olds in five schools in one local education authority over the last eight years. They used the same simple tests throughout the period of the study.