Mr Byers told the North of England Education Conference in Bradford:
'In May, we set challenging national targets for literacy to tackle the chronic under-achievement of our 11-year-olds in their English tests. In 1996, just 57% of our 11 year olds reached the standard required for their age in reading and writing. That will not do - that is why we have set a target of 80% by 2002.
'Today we publish targets for every LEA to reach by the end of this Parliament and with them our promise to monitor their performance annually. There will be no hiding place for underperformance - every parent will know these figures and will judge LEAs on how they meet them.
in Sandwell LEA in 1996, 45% of 11 year olds reached the standard required for their age in English tests - by 2002 it must be 76%; in Tower Hamlets the 1996 figure was 36%, in 2002 it must be 70%; in Leicester City the 1996 figure was 45%, in 2002 it must be 76%; in Lambeth the 1996 figure was 47%, in 2002 it must be 80%.
'Others are presently well above the national average. But there is no room for complacency, for example:
in Bromley, the 1996 figure was 67%, in 2002 it must be 90%; in Bury, the 1996 figure was 66%, in 2002 it must be 90%; in Solihull, the 1996 figure was 68%, in 2002 it must be 90%; in Surrey, the 1996 figure was 69%, in 2002 it must be 90%; in Wokingham, the 1996 figure was 74%, in 2002 it must be 90%.
'We want no excuses for failure. Many LEAs are in deprived areas,but poverty is no excuse for under-achievement - it is a reason for
'There is clear evidence that some schools in depressed areas are already reaching above the national average - if they can improve, all schools can improve.
'LEAs deserve praise for the way they have taken up this challenge. They have signed up to these targets. When they achieve them in 2002,
the country will have achieved its target too.
'Failure to master the basics in reading and writing leads to disaffection and alienation from school. This must and will change.
'Eight out of ten of our 11 year olds will begin their secondary school education confident of their reading and writing skills - and all that implies for the future of this country. Our standards revolution will have reached a historic milestone.'
1. Available from press office is a list of every LEA in the country, with the percentage of its 11 year old school pupils who achieved the standard expected for their age in English tests in 1996, and the target we have set for that LEA to reach by 2002.
2. Mr Byers was speaking at the North of England Education Conference, in Bradford. It opened on Monday and closed today. His speech followed a video message to delegates from education and employment secretary David Blunkett.