There has been an improvement in the national curriculum test results achieved by teenagers in England.
Boys' writing scores improved markedly
Figures show 74% achieved the expected level for the end of Key Stage 3 in English and maths and 70% in science.
The government's target is for 85% of 14-year-olds to do so in English and maths and 80% in science by 2007.
The science and writing results showed rises of four percentage points on last year and, ministers said, showed their support strategies were working.
School Standards Minister Jacqui Smith said the targeting of additional resources to schools facing the biggest challenges in disadvantaged areas had also yielded some of the greatest improvements.
Results varied widely among the 147 main local authorities:
Rutland, which has just a handful of secondary schools, was among the higher performers.
- in English, from 56% in Hull to 85% in Wokingham and Sutton
- in maths, from 56% in Southwark to 83% in Wokingham and Sutton
- in science, from 49% in Manchester to 83% in Sutton
And in each subject the Isles of Scilly recorded the highest marks but has only one school with relatively few pupils.
The results relate to the tests taken by children in May this year, when they were aged 13 or 14.
They include the achievements of independent schools, which can choose whether or not to be counted.
The provisional official statistics also show teachers' assessments of their charges' attainments in information and communication technology: 69% reaching the expected level.
The improvement in the maths test result was one percentage point over last year, while the science result jumped four points from last year when there had been a fall of two points from 2003.
This year's students were the first to have experienced all three years of a science strategy with extra training, materials and consultancy support for teachers.
However it remains the weakest subject - whereas it is the area in which children show the strongest performance in tests at the end of primary school.
The Department for Education and Skills noted that the English score showed the biggest annual rise since 1998.
But last year there were considerable problems with the reporting of the English results, which led to the resignation of the head of the National Assessment Agency.
'Getting basics right'
There remains a gender gap in girls' favour: of 13 percentage points in English and one point in maths and science.
But an extra effort to help boys with their writing has seen a five-point increase from 65% getting the expected level - known as Level 5 - last year to 70% this year.
Ms Smith said the results "show that real movement is being made in our ambitions for secondary schools on getting the basics right in the core subjects".
The Secondary Heads' Association said the improvement in teacher recruitment had had a positive effect.
"When the teacher shortage was at its worst, unqualified teachers were allocated most often to lessons for 11 to 14-year-olds and so this age group was hit disproportionately hard," said the general secretary, John Dunford.
Shadow education minister Nicolas Gibb said: "Let's be brutally frank about these results.
"They show that 32% of 14-year-olds in this country are still not reading at the expected level."