But the person winning the pound;80,000-a-year post will get a second go at the goal, as the targets - 85 per cent of children reaching level 4 in English and maths - remain unchanged until 2006.
Dr Tim Coulson, director of the national numeracy strategy and Stephen Anwyll, director of the national literacy strategy, are obvious candidates for the post which brings the two strategies together.
Both escape blame for the Government's failure to reach the 2002 targets of 80 per cent of 11-year-olds getting level 4 in English and 75 per cent in maths, not least because they only started in 2001.
There are fears that both strategies have run out of steam as numbers reaching level 4 hit a ceiling. It is hoped that a new top dog can reinvigorate them.
The director will be employed by the Centre for British Teachers - the non-profit-making group running the strategies - but will answer to Professor David Hopkins, director of the standards unit.
Professor David Reynolds, of Exeter University, a former member of the numeracy task force, is also a possible candidate.
The Office for Standards in Education is seen as a source of candidates, especially after its recent report on successful primary schools, although Keith Lloyd, head of its primary divison, is due to retire next summer. The key stage 3 strategy also neeeds a replacement for director Anita Straker, who is retiring.