Test results indicate primary school teachers have succeeded in helping a growing number of pupils learn to read phonetically over the past year.
Back in 2010, one in 11 year six pupils left primary school with the reading age of a seven-year-old - a statistic that prompted the government to introduce mandatory year one phonics checks in 2012 for all state-funded primary schools.
In these tests, children sit one-on-one with their teacher and are asked to read 40 words aloud - 20 of which are real and 20 pseudo-words - to gauge their ability to break down and blend words using systematic synthetic phonics.
Now the Department for Education has released new figures showing that in 2013, 69 per cent of year one pupils achieved the expected level of getting at least 32 out of 40 words right, compared to 58 per cent last year.
This still means 177,000 six-year-olds were identified as being below the expected level; these pupils will now receive additional reading assistance from staff in teaching jobs to ensure they are not left behind at this early stage of their education.
Education minister Liz Truss commented: "We are committed to improving children’s reading.
"The phonics check helps teachers identify those pupils who need extra help in learning to read. Many thousands of children will now receive the extra support they need to catch up with their peers and develop a love of reading."
Girls outperformed boys on these tests, with 73 per cent reaching the required standard, compared to 65 per cent of boys.
Meanwhile, whereas 72 per cent of pupils not eligible for free school meals attained the expected level, this was only the case for 56 per cent of children who are - a gap that has not shrunk since last year.
It was notable pupils who speak English as an additional language fared no worse than those for who it is their first language, while pupils from Indian backgrounds did better than any other ethnic group, with 80 per cent meeting the expected standard.
Posted by Theo Foulds