England's state schools are failing to meet the needs of the most able children, according to research commissioned by the Sutton Trust. The research ranks England 26th out of 34 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.
The research, which was based on an analysis of OECD international mathematics tests of fifteen year olds, shows England's teenagers to be only half as likely as children from other developed countries to achieve the highest level of attainment.
In England only 1.7 percent of teenagers reached the highest level. In comparison, in Switzerland the figure is 7.8, in Flanders, it is 8.7 percent and in Canada, it is 4.4 percent. The authors of the report point out that on a world scale, the figures are even worse. In Shanghai, for example, more than a quarter of children achieved the highest level.
The authors also point out that virtually none of England's highest achievers attend non-selective state schools, which are attended by 90 percent of the nation's children. The report argues that England's poor performance is the direct result of successive educational policies that have failed to meet the needs of the brightest children.
Sir Peter Lampl, the Chairman of the Sutton Trust said:
These are shocking findings that raise profound concerns about how well we support our most academically able pupils, from non-privileged backgrounds. Excellence in maths is crucial in so many areas such as science, engineering, IT, economics and finance. These figures show that few bright non-privileged students reach their academic potential - which is unfair and a tragedy for them and the country as a whole
According to the Daily Telegraph, Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, "seized on the results" and stated:
This report underlines why the government is determined to act decisively to restore academic rigour to schools and ensure our exams match the world’s best.
The report has also been welcomed by the charity National Numeracy, whose Chief Executive, Mike Mike Ellicock, said:
National Numeracy strongly welcomes this report highlighting the importance of unlocking highly able pupils' mathematical potential.
The report is likely to add to the on-going political controversy around educational standards.