As many as 70,000 students obtained five top-grade GCSE passes last year without mastering maths and English, new figures reveal.
They show a worrying growth in the percentage of 16-year-olds who obtain the benchmark five A* to C grade passes but miss out in the two basic subjects.
The 70,000 students amounted to 13 per cent of the age cohort - up from just 11 per cent in 2003.
Leaders of the Confederation of British Industry have warned that the education system is "failing to deliver the right basic skills".
The figures, in a report released yesterday by the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT), underline fears that too many young people are applying for jobs or higher education courses without being able to read, write or add up properly.
Ministers have ordered all schools to publish the figures for the percentage of pupils obtaining five top-grade passes including maths and English in an attempt to get them to concentrate on the basics.
The report, by Professor David Jesson, of York University, and David Crossley, of the SSAT, showed that the percentage of youngsters including maths and English in their top-grade passes in non-specialist schools is declining.
Last year only 34 per cent got A* to C grade passes in both subjects compared to 37 per cent two years ago. In specialist schools, the percentage went up from 42 per cent to 44 per cent.
Last year it emerged that nine out of the 10 schools with the most improved results in the country had achieved their success with more widespread take-up of vocational qualifications.Reuse content