Fewer 14-year-olds reached the standards expected of their age group in English this year, national test results showed today.
Results for maths rose, with 77 per cent of pupils getting Level 5 in their national curriculum tests and science grades also improved.
But in English, the proportion of pupils reaching the expected grade of Level 5 fell by two percentage points to 72 per cent.
The drop was mirrored in reading, where just 66 per cent made the grade, the Department for Education and Skills statistics showed.
The results for the tests, which are often known as "Sats", showed that boys fared worse than girls in the three Rs.
In reading, just 59 per cent of 14-year-old boys reached the standards expected of their age group, compared with 74 per cent of girls.
In writing, 83 per cent of girls reached Level 5, while only 69 per cent of boys matched them.
And in maths, 77 per cent of girls achieved the expected levels, one percentage point ahead of boys.
Overall maths results went up by three percentage points from 2005.
In science, 72 per cent of pupils reached the expected level for their age - a rise of two percentage points on last year.
The tests were taken by around 600,000 teenagers across England.
Schools Minister Jim Knight welcomed the improvements in science and maths but expressed concern over the fall in English results.
"I want to congratulate pupils, parents and teachers for their hard work over the last 12 months," he said.
"However, I'm concerned that English has fallen this year following the very good progress seen last year and despite a 15 percentage point increase since 1997.
"We cannot afford to be complacent and need to redouble our efforts to reverse this next year.
"That's why we have taken strong steps to ensure standards rise, including almost £1 billion extra for personalised learning to stretch the brightest and help the less able, making phonics the prime approach to boost reading at primary school, and improving the Key Stage 3 curriculum (for 11 to 14-year-olds)."Reuse content