Thousands of children get "stuck" at school, making little or no improvement in the three Rs after the age of seven, a government inquiry shows.
The researchers, headed by Christine Gilbert, the chief schools inspector, warned that many pupils switched off school because they showed no improvement in core subjects such as maths and English.
The report says the situation - which has led to 120,000 pupils a year leaving primary schools without basic numeracy and literacy skills, and 60,000 making no progress in English in the first three years of secondary school - could no longer be accepted.
Today, in a keynote speech to the North of England Education Conference in Preston, the Schools minister, Jim Knight, will acknowledge that the findings demand urgent action. He will say no child should be allowed to "get stuck in a rut or fall further behind".
The report also condemns the lack of progress in narrowing the achievement gap between girls and boys since the turn of the century, and adds that the gap in performance between richer and poorer pupils "has not decreased significantly".
It continues: "In international comparisons, while England ranks relatively high for overall achievement, a considerable tail of underachievement is evident, most notably in reading. Boys make up the majority of the 20 per cent or so of 11-year-old pupils who do not achieve the expected level of reading."
Teachers will be asked to identify all pupils who are failing to make progress and give them one-to-one tuition. This, the report says, will help to "avoid the disaffection and attention-seeking that gives rise to problems with behaviour".
Alan Johnson, the Secretary of State for Education, said: "Many disadvantaged pupils are bright and talented but lose motivation. We need to make sure no one is left behind at any point, from the most gifted and talented children to the uninterested child at the back."
Mr Knight is to promise today there will be "no more hiding places, no more coasting schools, no more using success on the surface as a pretext for complacency or offering disadvantage as a justification for poor performance".