English and maths staff need to ensure pupils master basic literacy and numeracy, a business leader this week.
Susan Anderson, director of human resources at the Confederation of British Industry, said companies were "fed up with picking up the pieces" of a system that left many school-leavers with poor basic skills.
A survey this year of CBI members found that 47 per cent were unhappy with skills levels among school-leavers.
Speaking at a London meeting to discuss the Tomlinson proposals, Mrs Anderson said: "If teachers are not spending their time teaching young people to be literate or numerate, what are they doing in these lessons?"
Dr Bethan Marshall, English lecturer at King's college, London, said she was depressed by employers' low aspirations and the CBI's refusal to back Tomlinson.