Increasing numbers of high-achieving school children are being entered into new tests designed to encourage academic ability, the Government has said.

Figures from the Department for Education show the number of primary school pupils taking part in Level 6 tests for both reading and maths has almost doubled in two years, while the take-up for a new paper testing spelling, punctuation and grammar has also risen significantly since its re-introduction a year ago.

Level 6 tests were scrapped in 2002 but brought back in 2012 and 2013 as optional exams demanding more of the brightest 11-year-olds.

The statutory National Curriculum Tests - taken last week by around 550,000 11-year-olds in their final year of primary school - only assess whether pupils are working at levels 3, 4 or 5. But statistics today show that increasingly primary schools are making use of the opportunity to raise aspirations of their pupils by entering them for the tougher Level 6 tests.

The figures show that while 47,000 entered high achievers' reading exams in 2012, 95,000 have been registered for this year.

And in maths, 106,000 have been earmarked for this year's test, compared with 55,000 two years ago.

The new spelling, punctuation and grammar exam was introduced last year with 59,000 applicants - a figure rising to 90,000 applicants this time.

A Department for Education spokesman said: "We brought back these tests because we wanted to give teachers the chance to set high aspirations for pupils in literacy and numeracy.

"We want to see every school stretching all their pupils - and these figures show that primary schools have embraced the opportunity to stretch their brightest 11-year-olds by teaching them more demanding new material, in line with the new curriculum, and by entering them for the Level 6 test.

"This is part of a package of measures - along with toughening up existing primary school tests, raising the bar and introducing higher floor standards - that will raise standards and help ensure all children arrive at secondary school ready to thrive."