This pilot study investigates whether there is empirical evidence to support the widelyheld notion of a problem with pupils’ academic progress at lower secondary level inEngland known as the ‘Key Stage 3 dip’. It focuses on pupils’ attainment rather thanattitudes and draws a distinction between dips and plateaus. The relevant researchliterature is reviewed and a methodology is developed to strengthen the evidencebase in relation to this issue. An existing sample of English and maths results for onecohort of pupils in National Curriculum and optional tests is analysed in order to trackchanges in their attainment throughout Key Stage 3. The results of this analysisidentify widespread plateaus and less widespread dips in both subjects during eachof the three year groups that comprise Key Stage 3. Additional analyses find thatpupils tend to dip in only one subject or year group and to recover quickly. However,some pupils are found to be more vulnerable to attainment dips than other pupils,particularly those who are Black or Asian, have special educational needs, or have alower socio-economic status.