Reading standards among 14-year-olds have fallen in the past year, national curriculum test results revealed yesterday.
The Schools minister, Jim Knight, called on parents to encourage their children to read after results showed a drop of two percentage points in the number of students who had attained the required reading standard.
The results of the tests, taken by 14-year-olds, showed 73 per cent of students were up to par in English (down one percentage point), 77 per cent in maths (up one point) and 71 per cent in science (down two).
The drop in English was based on the reading tests, where the number of up-to-standard students fell from 71 per cent to 69 per cent. Writing, however, went up from 74 to 77 per cent.
The results were published despite calls from education professionals to delay their issue, because so many papers were missing or unmarked.
Only 84 per cent of English scripts and 94 per cent of maths and science ones had been marked when the figures were compiled. Leaders of the National Association of Head Teachers said the results should not have been published.
Mary Bousted, the general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, claimed the tests were an "irrelevance" and should be scrapped.
Nearly 250,000 students failed to reach standards in writing, reading and maths. Only 60 per cent were up to par, the same as last year and well short of a target of 85 per cent set by ministers.
Boys lagged behind girls in reading and writing. Only 62 per cent of boys reached the reading standard, compared with 76 per cent of girls, and 70 per cent attained the writing standard, compared with 83 per cent of girls. Mr Knight said boys should read more fiction instead of stories about football teams and asked parents to read the same books as their children, so they could discuss them.
The results show that writing weaknesses identified in 11-year-olds appear to have been addressed by the time children reach the age of 14, but reading and science standards fall away.