The Daily Express headline refers to the GCSE figures that were published last week.
It's not actually reading, writing and arithmetic that 53.5 per cent of teenagers have failed. Rather, it is getting five C-grade or above GCSEs including English and maths. Indeed it is possible, albeit unlikely, that all have a GCSE grade C in English and maths but failed to gain three other GCSEs.
But with a tight headline space, The Express's explanation is that the measure is the "modern equivalent" of the 3Rs. Fair enough, but what is less defensible is the conclusion that the results "make a mockery of the Government's claims that progress is being made".
Apart from a 0.2 percentage point dip in 2003, there has been a rise in the number of pupils achieving five C-grade GCSEs, including English and maths, every year since 1996 when 35.2 per cent did so.