More than 150,000 children are unable to read, write and add up properly by the time they are 11, yesterday's primary school league tables revealed.
The figures showed for the first time the percentage of youngsters failing to reach the required standard in both maths and English.
In all, just over one in four of the 600,000 age cohort (26 per cent) fell short of what was expected of them.
In 797 schools, fewer than half the pupils reached the level expected of an 11-year-old in the two core subjects.
And in three schools, not one pupil reached the required level – Crays Hill in Billericay, Essex, where parents withdrew their children after travellers' children were taken into the school; Oak Trees in Maidstone, Kent, where the entire governing body resigned last year; and Bishops Itchington in Southam, Warwickshire, where the English results were annulled because of malpractice (79 per cent reached the standard in maths).
By contrast, 352 schools scored a "perfect hand" with every pupil achieving the standard in maths and English. In the two joint top schools – Hall Meadow in Kettering, Northamptonshire, and Combe Church of England in Witney, Oxfordshire – every child bar one reach the standard expected of a 14-year-old in both subjects.
Opposition MPs seized the overall results as evidence of poor standards in schools. David Laws, the Liberal Democrats' schools spokesman, said: "It is shocking that there are still hundreds of schools which are not equipping the majority of their pupils with the basic skills they need."
However, the results are the best achieved since the tests were introduced in 1992 – 81 per cent achieved the required level in English, 79 per cent in maths and 88 per cent in science. There were weaknesses in writing, with only 68 per cent of pupils achieving the level expected of them, compared to 87 per cent in reading.
The publication of the league tables was three months late because of the delays in marking and lost papers in national curriculum tests last summer. Yesterday, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the curriculum watchdog, accepted the resignation of its chief executive, Dr Ken Boston. He had offered to go in December. Sarah McCarthy-Fry the Schools minister said: "These are good results but we know there is more to do. We are committed to ensuring that pupils who fall behind are spotted quickly and support is in place to help them."
This year could be the last in which the tests are taken in their present form. The Schools Secretary, Ed Balls, has set up a review group to look at testing and assessment arrangements which will report later this year.
The best school...
Almost all the children at the 214-pupil school at Hall Meadow Primary School in Kettering, Northampstonshire, not only achieve the standard expected of an 11-year-old in maths and English – but that expected of a 14-year-olds. Headteacher Lorraine Cullen is adamant this is not achieved by just coaching pupils for tests. "The most important point is the value added aspect of our work – that we improve upon their attainment. We monitor standards right from their start so no child falls behind where they were initially."
... and the worst
Crays Hill Primary School in Billericay, Essex was a thriving village school four years ago. However, parents began withdrawing their children after a travellers' camp moved into the area and their children were taken in. Now, not a single child at the school reaches the required level in English and maths for an 11-year-old. A spokesman for the school said: "The vast majority of our pupils join with attainment levels well below national expectations and these results must be seen in that context."Reuse content