A SURVEY of the results of more than 5,000 11-year-olds shows English test scores have risen, but a huge gap remains between reading and writing.
A TES survey of national test results in 118 schools found 78 per cent of pupils reached level 4 in English this year, the expected level for their age.
The poll suggests the Government will fail to meet its national target of 80 per cent achieving level 4 in key stage 2 English. In 1997 former education secretary David Blunkett promised to resign if the 2002 English and maths KS2 targets were not met.
A sample of 37 schools with better than average English scores, found 84 per cent of pupils gained level 4 in reading compared to just over two-thirds in writing.
Writing and grammar are still a problem, despite being priorities for most Year 6 teachers.
However, some schools have protested that their scores may have been affected by tough or sloppy marking.
Steve Elliott, head of Iford and Kingston C of E primary, Lewes, East Sussex, said: "English was more harshly marked than in previous years. Some work seemed at level 5 but pupils did not get this."
The result of the poll backs up predictions by an examinations insider, who said that, on the basis of separate statistical evidence, the Government looked likely to miss the KS2 target in English.
There is likely to be a small improvement in English from last year's 75 per cent result, but not enough to hit the 80 per cent mark.
The source also said that the maths target - 75 per cent of children reaching level 4 - would be missed though it would be a close-run thing.
However, in the TES poll of a representative sample of 118 English schools, 78 per cent of pupils got level 4 or above in maths. This reinforces the claim of former national numeracy chief Anita Straker, made to The TES last year, that the 2002 cohort was the best ever and likely to hit the target.
Schools in the poll also reported 89 per cent of pupils achieved level 4 in science, up two percentage points on last year's national result.
John Gawthorpe, chairman of the National Primary Headteachers' Association, said: "While applauding the youngsters, we still ask why schools across England will be castigated if they do not reach the arbitrary targets set by ministers.
"Parents know that children differ, schools know that cohorts differ: why can ministers not grasp this simple truth?"
Changes are being made to all tests next year, to counter concern about widespread "teaching to the test" raised by the Government's own evaluation of the literacy and numeracy strategies.