There has been a small rise in the proportion of England's 11-year-olds reaching the expected standard in the national curriculum or "Sats" tests.
The trend in results by children at the end of primary school
There was a rise of one percentage point to 79% in English and 75% in maths. Science was unchanged at 86%.
The government target, postponed from last year, is that 85% will make the grade in English and maths by 2006.
The education secretary said a focus on basics was paying off, but head teachers want targets to be dropped.
The results will form the basis of the school league tables published at the end of the year.
Results in English and maths rose steadily from 1995 until 2000, when they seemed to reach a plateau - although English results improved by three percentage points last year.
Girls continued to outperform boys in English, 84% against 74%.
Boys did slightly better in maths, 76% against 75%, with another one point gap in science, this time in girls' favour: 87% to 86%.
But in writing, only 55% of boys met the expected standard, compared to 72% of girls.
Among England's 150 local authorities, performance ranged from 66% to 88% in English, 63% to 86% in maths and 76% to 96% in science.
The government had hoped that every area would have had at least 78% reaching the standard by last year.
The Department for Education and Skills was pleased by a rise of three percentage points in boys' reading performance, to 82%, following targeted support.
Schools Minister Jacqui Smith congratulated teachers and children for their hard work.
"The level of achievement for boys and girls in English and maths has never been higher," she said.
"It shows that this government's unrelenting focus on the basics is paying off."
Asked if she would resign if the targets were not met, the minister told reporters: "The reason I am in my job and the reason the prime minister chose me is to make a difference to children's lives and make sure we continue to improve standards."
But the shadow education secretary, David Cameron, said the government was failing to get even the basics right.
"Once the government promised to resign if schools failed to reach their targets. Now ministers are just resigned to failure," he said.
'Teaching to the test'
The Liberal Democrat education spokesman, Edward Davey, said any improvement in basic standards was welcome.
"But a few percentage points increase in results is no guarantee of a permanent improvement in literacy or numeracy," he added.
"The pressure of league tables means that schools are teaching to the test rather than concentrating on delivering the best all-round education."
David Hart of the National Association of Head Teachers said it was becoming increasingly difficult for schools to "raise their game".
"There is frankly little chance of hitting next year's targets and to expect this of schools is wholly unreasonable. The targets should be abandoned," he said.
The achievements of seven-year-olds in English and maths have also been published.
For the first time this year, these relate to teachers' assessments of their children's progress, informed only in part by the use of testing.
They showed 85% reaching the expected national curriculum level in reading, 82% in writing and 91% in maths.
Girls did better than boys across the board.