Increasing numbers of disadvantaged pupils are failing to reach the expected standards in English and maths at the end of primary school, new statistics show.
Experts have expressed concern at the poor performance in key stage 2 Sats by those with special educational needs (SEN) and from poorer homes this summer - despite large amounts of money being spent on helping them catch up.
Only a third of children with SEN without statements got the expected level 4, down 1 per cent from 2008. Just over half of those eligible for free school meals achieved this, also a fall from the previous year.
Just 63.2 per cent of children from black Caribbean backgrounds achieved level 4, compared with the national average of 71 per cent. Chinese pupils outperformed those from every other ethnic group, with 81.8 per cent on level 4. Girls outperformed boys again, with the gap between the sexes widening. Three-quarters of girls got the expected level compared with 69.3 per cent of boys - down from 70.6 per cent in 2008.
Pupils with statements did worse this year - 13.2 per cent got level 4 in English and maths compared with 14.2 per cent in 2008. Just a third of pupils with SEN without a statement achieved this - down 1per cent from the previous year.
This is despite a host of programmes being introduced to help children at risk of not doing well, including Every Child a Reader, Every Child Counts, Every Child a Writer, Every Child a Talker, systematic phonics and one-to-one tuition. Only one-in-five children with speech, language and communication needs got the expected level in Sats and there was also a fall in those with profound and multiple learning difficulties attaining the grade.
Jean Gross, the Government's new communication champion, said she was disappointed by the results - particularly those relating to speech, language and communications needs. Mrs Gross is calling for more specialist teachers, rather than just the use of teaching assistants for SEN pupils.
"They are not going in the direction we all want to see, this is not good news," she said. "I think special needs provision should be an intervention rather than a lifestyle."
Christopher Robertson, lecturer in inclusive and special education at Birmingham University, said the fall was "intriguing" given how much increased investment there is in helping children falling behind.
"But we must remember SEN children have intrinsic difficulties in doing these tests, and we must understand that better," he said. "There are groups of 'Cinderella' pupils, such as those with moderate learning difficulties, who have really missed out with the focus on tackling specific conditions. They are often moved between mainstream and special schools, and there's a strong link between pupils in this category and poverty. Their parents don't have the social capital to get this done for them."