Q3. Do different groups of pupils make equally good progress in science and maths?

Why this is important

Under the National Curriculum in England for Key Stages 1 and 2, teachers must set high expectations for all pupils; from those who are already high performing, to those who have low levels of prior achievement. Teachers should be conscious of the strong impact expectations can have on pupil motivation and eventual attainment and be particularly conscious of the expectations they set for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.44

Ofsted inspectors consider how :

  • assessment information is used to identify pupils who require additional support and challenge high achieving pupils45
  • Pupil Premium funding is spent to help pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds; more than a quarter of pupils receiving Free School Meals (FSM) enter secondary school below the expected level, which affects their chances of progression and achievement later in education.4647

Additional information to be aware of:

  • Research shows certain groups can be under-marked by teachers, who should be aware of this and try to ensure their judgements are as objective as possible.48
  • There is evidence that teacher anxiety in mathematics is linked to pupil anxiety, and this may be especially the case between female teachers and students.49 This may impact on a pupil’s attitude towards the subject, making the development of teacher confidence in all subjects vital (see T4).


Table 1 shows that in 2013, pupils who were eligible for free school meals, had a first language other than English, were disadvantaged or had special education needs were less likely than average to achieve level 4 or above in maths at Key Stage 2.51

According to the data below, more than a quarter of pupils receiving free school meals enter secondary school below the expected level. This can impact on their progression and achievement later in education.

Level 4+Making expected progress
First languageNot English84%92%
Free school meals (FSM)FSM75%84%
Not on FSM88%91%
Special educational needs (SEN)All SEN57%74%
No identified SEN94%94%
Disadvantaged pupilsDisadvantaged78%86%
Not disadvantaged90%91%
All pupils 86%90%

Achievement at level 4 or above and making expected progress in maths in Key Stage 2 by pupil characteristics in state-funded schools in England in 2013

Your school will get its own data to use for comparison from RAISEOnline and the FFT.

The Department for Education provides access to data on the percentage of pupils in state-funded schools in England achieving level 4 or above and achieving level 5 or above in both Key Stage 2 tests and teacher assessments.52

Table 2 shows that boys are more likely than girls to achieve at higher levels (level 5 or above) in maths, but not in science.

Level 4+Level 5+
Maths testBoys86%44%
Maths teacher assessmentBoys87%46%
Science teacher assessmentBoys87%38%

Percentage of pupils achieving level 4 and above and level 5 and above in Key Stage 2 tests and teacher assessments in 2013 in all schools in England

Chart 3 and Chart 4 below show that in the 2012 science national sampling tests, boys also slightly outperformed girls at higher levels (level 5 or above).

Chart 3

Chart 3

Chart 4

Chart 4

Ideas for improvement


You can encourage your school to use the FFT School self-evaluation tool to get a full picture of acheivement in the school.

School leaders

School leaders should consider the individual circumstances of all pupils on the roll of the school to identify any groups which require additional support. Information on how teachers may assess their pupils can be found in Q1.


All teachers should understand how unconscious bias can affect children’s developing views of themselves and their ambitions. Teachers should be trained in how to address unconscious bias and counter any emerging stereotypes – particularly those relating to the expectations for boys and girls in specific subjects.

There is a range of information for teachers to support the teaching of particular groups of pupils:

Other questions in Assessment

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