MINISTERS are planning a "catch-up" curriculum for under-achieving 11-year olds which aims to get them back on track by the end of their first year at secondary school.
Pupils who fell behind at primary school will be offered an intensive programme of reading and writing to help them make up lost ground.
Children will also be able to re-take national tests at the end of the year in order to prove they are back in step with their classmates, under plans currently being developed by Government test advisers.
Ministers intend to target children who fail to achieve national primary standards after concerns that they fall even further behind once in secondary school.
Officials at the Department for Education and Employment's standards and effectiveness unit are also devisng a series of six half-termly units which will focus on areas which pupils find most difficult.
Their report said: "The emphasis is on quick and effective catch-up as early as possible; it is unlikely that pupils who are out of step with their peers will pick up unlearnt skills incidentally."
Pupils who have fallen behind the rest of the class will follow catch-up units to teach them spelling rules, phonics, reading comprehension skills and notetaking tactics.
The units will be offered as part of the National Literacy Strategy which is being extended to secondary schools from September.
They will be sent to schools by Easter 2001.
The draft version of the Framework for Teaching English: Year 7 is
available on www.standards.dfee.gov.ukliteracy