Children's progress in literacy and maths over the early years foundation stage (EYFS) is lagging behind other areas of development, according to new official figures.
The EYFS profile is an assessment conducted by primary teachers to measure children's readiness at the end of this stage to move onto key stage one, designed to ensure a smoother transition between these phases.
Following an earlier review of the EYFS, the government as of September 2012 revised the profile to place greater focus on communication and language, physical, and personal, social and emotional development.
Now the Department for Education (DfE) has published statistics indicating that children achieved an average score of 32.8 points on the profile this year, with 34 points the equivalent of children achieving the expected level across all early learning goals.
Breaking this down into individual early learning goals, 83 per cent of pupils reached the expected level in physical development, while 78 per cent did likewise for expressive arts and design and 76 per cent for personal, social and emotional development.
Yet on the other hand, only 61 per cent of pupils reached the expected level in literacy by the end of reception this year, while 66 per cent demonstrated the required level of attainment in maths.
Referring to the updated profile, a DfE spokeswoman told BBC News it "places a stronger emphasis on the areas which are most essential for a child's development and a greater focus on the key skills children need for a good start in life".
She added: "Our reforms are also focusing on improving the quality of professionals working in the early years, by introducing early years teachers and early years educators into nurseries who will specialise in early childhood development."
DfE figures also reveal significant variation in performance along gender lines, with a larger share of girls reaching the expected level than boys on all individual learning goals.
The biggest gender gap was in expressive design and arts at 17 percentage points, while there was also a 16 percentage point difference for literacy.
By contrast, the gap was smallest in maths - just seven percentage points - followed by an eight percentage point gap in understanding the world.
Posted by Theo Foulds