Half fail GCSE maths and English

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The Independent Online

A record number of pupils in England have achieved five good GCSE passes, but more than half are still failing to master basic English and maths, according to official figures published yesterday.

This summer 58.1 per cent of 15-year-olds achieved five or more A* to C grades, up1.8 percentage points on last year - the second largest rise since 1997.

But the proportion who scored five good passes including English and maths rose to just 45.1 per cent, up 0.8 percentage points. This means that the gap between the headline results and those including maths and English had widened for the seventh year running to a record 13 percentage points.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats said ministers should be ashamed of their recordon English and maths.

Jim Knight, the Schools minister, said: "The results today show that fewer schools are failing their pupils, with a record proportion of children leaving with five good passes including English and maths."

But Nick Gibb, the Conservatives' spokesman for schools, warned the figures suggested that some schools had boosted their results with new subjects while failing to concentrate on the basics. He said: "If our education system is to deliver a broad, liberal education for our children, the trend away from a focus on key subjects such as English, maths, science and a modern foreign language needs to be halted urgently."

Sarah Teather, the Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman, said: "The Government should be ashamed so many young people don't have a sound grasp of maths and English."

The latest figures show that almost 350,000 teenagers failed to master the basics of English and maths. The picture was even worse when science and foreign languages were considered.

The overall rise put the Government on course to meet its target for 60 per cent of 16-year-olds to achieve at least five good GCSE passes by 2008.

However, the data revealed that the Department for Education and Skills had consistently failed to meet its targets from the 2002 spending review for an annual improvement of two percentage points, averaging just 1.6 percentage points a year.

The figures also showed that girls continued to outperform boys with 63.2 per cent of girls achieving at least five good passes compared to just 53.3 per cent.

The Government plans to address the gap with "personalised learning" programmes and special diplomas which they hope will encourage boys.