Four in 10 teenagers are failing to master the basics after three years of secondary school, new figures show.
Results published by the Government show that fewer 14-year-olds reached a decent standard in maths tests this summer compared to last year. Standards increased slightly in English but were no better than those achieved in 2005.
Last Mod: 15 Ağustos 2007, 10:34
Forty per cent of pupils failed to achieve the required levels in the three Rs combined - despite millions being spent on secondary school reforms.
It also emerged that the Government missed its targets for the number of pupils in England passing Key Stage 3 national in maths, English and science.
Ministers defended the scores, saying that over the last 10 years results had improved, with almost 100,000 more children hitting targets in the three Rs since 1997.
However, the results triggered fresh accusations that standards had "stalled" under Labour. Nick Gibb, the Conservative shadow schools minister, said the maths figures were "deeply worrying".
"With English results back to where they were two years ago, it is clear there is a serious problem," he said. "The Government's response to these results is complacent."
Stephen Williams, the Liberal Democrat schools spokesman, said ministers had fallen "woefully short" of their own targets. "Any progress previously made has now stalled or is even going backwards," he said.
There was also a claim yesterday that English tests were now easier to pass than they were in the mid-90s.
The Bow Group, a think-tank linked to the Tories, said pupils had to score between 41 and 62 in tests to reach the required level in English in 1995 but this year pupils had to achieve only between 30 and 52.
Chris Skidmore, the Bow Group chairman, said: "Pupils are reaching the accepted level in English with far fewer marks. This must seriously call into question the Government's claim that standards are rising."
However, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority said the boundaries reflected how hard a test was in a given year.
"The tests change annually to ensure they remain robust and have the ability to assess different aspects of the curriculum," said a spokesman. "QCA maintains the standard of the key stage tests year on year."
According to the Government figures, 74 per cent of pupils reached the expected level in English, up one point on last year following a slight fall a year earlier.
However, the figure - made up of results in reading and writing - masked a significant weakness. In writing, 73 per cent of 14-year-olds reached the required level for their age - a three-point fall on 2006.
In maths, standards fell one percentage point to 76 per cent and in the sciences the proportion of 14-year-olds hitting national targets increased one point to 73 per cent.
Jim Knight, the schools minister, said: "The overall trend remains upwards. We are introducing a new secondary curriculum next year that will give teachers more power to help children who are at risk of falling behind to master the basics."