The Government is on course to meet its maths and reading targets, ministers claimed this week, with the publication of results showing substantial improvements in primary test scores.
The proportion of 11-year-olds reaching the expected standard jumped By five points in English, eight points in mathematics and seven percentage points in science.
This, however, still leaves one third of pupils failing to hit the targe - level 4 - in maths and English.
There is also continuing concern about the gap in achievement between boys and girls in English. Eleven-year-old girls are an enormous 12 percentage points ahead.
Britain's 14-year-olds registered modest three-point gains in maths and science, but turned in a one-point decline in English.
Both sets of results, at key stages 2 and 3, contrast with the scores from seven-year-old pupils at key stage 1. Only a fifth of seven-year-olds failed to meet the appropriate levels.
Estelle Morris, education junior minister, said: "These improvements confirm that our ambitious literacy and numeracy targets are achievable. However there is still much work to do."
The Government has promised that, by the year 2002, four out of five 11-year-olds will be reading at level 4 and three out of four will reach it in maths. It has also promised that all children will be able to read well by the end of a second term in office, the year 2007.
At key stage 2 the proportions hitting level 4 were: 63 per cent in English; 62 per cent in maths; 69 per cent in science.
At key stage 3 the proportions meeting level 5 were: 56 per cent in English; 60 per cent in maths; 60 per cent in science.