The Government-commissioned research, led by the president of the British Medical Association, Sir Michael Marmot, found that on average, 44 per cent of all five-year-olds are not meeting national standards.
This rises to 58 per cent of children in the London Borough of Haringey, followed by 55 per cent in Brent, Newham and the county of Herefordshire. In Solihull in the West Midlands and Richmond upon Thames, 69 per cent of children are achieving a good level.
The authors say that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to begin primary school with personal, social and emotional development and language and literacy skills lower than their peers, because parents are less likely to read to them every day or to set regular bedtimes.
The findings are based on local authority data collected from the EYFS Profile results.
The report calls for:
- support for families to achieve progressive improvements in early child development, including providing paid parental leave in the first year of life with a minimum income for healthy living, and providing routine support to families through parenting programmes, children's centres and key workers, and developing programmes for the transition to school
- more expenditure allocated to the early years
- good quality early years education and childcare provided proportionately across local authorities, combined with outreach to increase the take-up by disadvantaged families.
Sir Michael Marmot, (pictured), said, 'The evidence is very clear: investing in pre-school years pays most dividends. We already know that by the age of ten a child from a poorer background will have lost any advantage of intelligence indicated at 22 months, whereas a child from an affluent family will have improved his or her cognitive scores purely because of his/her advantaged background.
'The Coalition Government is working in the right direction by transferring the responsibility for preventing ill health to local authorities. We need to ensure that local authorities invest money and expertise to ensure long-term reductions in health inequalities.'