Nearly three-quarters of girls - 73 per cent - now hit the expected standard for 11-year-olds in English. This is a rise of four percent-age points on last year. Boys, however, are stuck on 57 per cent.
The average rise for girls and boys together, a 2 per cent improvement, will not be enough for the Government to hit its 2002 target. It has promised that 80 per cent of 11-year-olds will be at level 4 in English by 2002.
The breakdown is included in a comprehensive data package sent to every school this week by Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to help schools assess performance and set targets.
The statistics, based on national trends, show a continuing performance gap between boys and girls in English at all key stages.
But boys are keeping up when it comes to maths and science - despite a fall in maths results overall at key stage 2. Both sexes show a big improvement in English at KS3.
The package includes "value- added" measures showing the distribution of results for children with the same level of prior attainment. A series of benchmarking tables allow schools to compare their results with national averages, adjusted for varying levels of poverty.
The literacy gap between boys and girls widens from 10 percentage points at key stage 1 to 16 points at KS2 and KS3.
Boys and girls showed big improvements in their English KS3 scores compared to last year - up eight and seven percentage points respectively. Seventy-three per cent of girls achieved the English standard expected for their age (level five) compared to 57 per cent of boys.
At GCSE both girls and boys continued to improve slowly. Girls, with 51. 3 per cent achieving five or more A*-C grades, are already exceeding the Govern-ment's KS4 target of 50 per cent - compared to just 41.1 of boys.
Only one in three boys achieved A*-Cs in both English and maths compared to 42 per cent of girls.
Letters, page 17