Boys' poor performance is hampering Ulster's efforts to reach its 2002 targets, this summer's results suggest.
This summer, 71 per cent of Ulster's 11-year-olds achieved the required standard in English, and 75 per cent in maths.
But this masks a significant gender gap which remained constant at 12 percentage points this year. Only 65 per cent of boys are at the expected level in English compared to 77 per cent of girls.
Girls have almost reache the maths target with 78 per cent achieving the required standard this year, up from 76 per cent in 1999. Boys are on 72 per cent.
The Northern Ireland target demands that 80 per cent of all 11-year-olds achieve this level in both English and maths by 2002.
Primary pupils' progress in English and maths is measured in Northern Ireland by teacher assessment alone. Pupils are assessed by their own teachers as part of normal classroom work and the results are moderated by the Northern Ireland exam board, the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment.