Children who show a lack of language skills at a young age are much more likely to struggle with national tests at age 11, new research shows.
The study, which was conducted by Save the Children, shows that 21 per cent of children who struggle with language when they begin school fail to meet the expected standards in their SAT tests at the end of primary school.
The researchers said poor language skills had an effect on all children, regardless of family background.
However, factors such as parents' education and poverty were also tied to attainment.
Academics at the Institute of Education analysed the progress of 5,000 children using data from the Millennium Cohort Study and the National Pupil Database in England.
New government plans mean that from 2017, pupils who do not pass their SAT tests will have to re-sit them during their first year of secondary school.
Gareth Jenkins, from Save the Children, says the research demonstrates for the first time the most crucial determinant of success in SAT tests is how well children can communicate when they start school.
The charity says the research should prompt a national debate about how to drive up the quality of nursery provision.
Recent research conducted by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) shows that intensive support from teaching assistants with small groups of reception and nursery class children boosted children’s vocabulary, listening, narrative and conversational skills.
Sir Kevan Collins, chief executive of the EEF, said: "With so many teaching assistants employed across the country, schools now have compelling evidence to make sure they’re using their own teaching assistants in ways that really improve results."
Posted by Harriet McGowan