Children whose mothers have a high level of qualifications are more likely to succeed, a study claims.
Students with parents who were educated to degree level are more likely to be 1.4 national curriculum levels ahead in English, 1.7 levels ahead in maths and 1.5 in science. This is compared to youngsters whose parents had no qualifications.
The research noted, after studying the children's backgrounds, the mother's level of qualifications was the strongest indicator of achievement.
The findings come from the Effective Pre-school, Primary and Secondary Education Project (EPPSE), which as been following the development of around 3,000 children since 1997.
Pre-school children whose parents provide a stimulating home life are still reaping the benefits at the age of 14, the research also suggests.
A study by the Institute of Education (IoE) found the quality of learning during a child's early years has a strong impact on achievement in secondary school.
It reveals that children whose parents focused on their learning at a young age are generally one national curriculum level ahead in English and science, and 1.3 levels ahead in maths.
"The quality of the early years home learning environment was strongly associated with differences in attainment at Key Stage 3 (ages 11-14)", it said.
The researchers also found evidence that students made more progress in English, maths and science between the ages of 11 and 14 if they were born in the autumn, and therefore older for their year group.
The findings come as a separate study found that illiteracy is costing the UK economy £81bn a year - the highest cost in Europe.
According to a report by the World Literacy Foundation, around one in five of the UK population, an estimated six to eight million adults, is functionally illiterate.
This means that they could struggle with basic tasks such as writing a letter to their MP or reading their child's school report.
The study, published ahead of the first World Literacy Summit in Oxford this weekend, says that individuals and businesses in the UK lose around £58bn through lower personal income or business earnings due to poor literacy.
Report author and World Literacy Trust chief executive Andrew Kay said: "The fact that over six million people in the UK are illiterate and many more people struggle to read and write is shocking in 2012.
"Even worse is the fact that globally, almost 800m people are illiterate and 100m children don't attend school each day.
"No matter whether you live in the developed or developing world, poor literacy is ruining lives and is linked with an array of poor life outcomes, such as poverty, unemployment, social exclusion, crime and long term illness."