More than 40,000 children were considered so poor in basic school subjects last year that they were not entered for GCSE exams in maths and English.
The figures, from a parliamentary answer to a question from David Laws, the Liberal Democrat schools spokesman, indicate that teachers were not even confident of them gaining G grades in the subjects.
A breakdown also shows that far more boys (8per cent – up to 25,000) than girls (5 per cent – up to 16,000) were barred from taking the exams. Overall, 7 per cent were not entered for maths and English.
"There is clearly something going wrong when a significant number of 16-year-olds are not even being entered for English and maths exams," said Mr Laws. "Ministers need to get to grips with an education system which still sees too many young people leaving school without basic qualifications."
The breakdown shows that up to 60,000 pupils were put in for fewer than five GCSEs including maths and English – making it impossible for them to meet the Government's benchmark for success that children should achieve at least five A* to C grade passes, including the basic subjects. Overall, only 46.7 per cent reached that hurdle.
Jim Knight, the Schools minister, said the Government had announced a three-year £200m package intended to raise the achievement of low-attaining pupils at GCSE.
"No school should accept low attainment as the status quo and we will give teachers the tools and support to make long-lasting change," he added.
"We are targeting the lowest achieving children with a revamped secondary curriculum, quality alternative qualifications and apprenticeships and investing £1bn in one-to-one tuition and catch-up classes."Reuse content