The children’s commissioner is producing a new early years Green Paper to ensure the most vulnerable young children are ready for school.
Anne Longfield said she wanted to use the health check children have after they turn 2 as a “golden gateway” to identify and support those who needed extra support to be ready for full-time education.
She highlighted the importance of early years during her appearance at the Hallam Festival of Education.
Comment: School readiness starts with parents
Background: Millions of young people living vulnerable lives
Ms Longfield said the early years Green Paper would be published in October this year.
Speaking to Tes, she said: “School readiness is going to be one of our big focuses.
“We know how important the early years are. We know there are a lot of children going into school with a developmental age of 3 rather than 5 and if they get behind at that stage, they stay behind at school and never catch up.
“Everything we see leads us to believe the earlier you identify children who need support, the better.
“There is a health check at two and a half, a developmental check. Make the most of that, make it that golden gateway to get the support children need to give them that bounce into school.
"That is what we are after: giving every child an opportunity to have a bounce into school and to get them into the best possible place.”
She referred to the findings of her Growing up North report, which highlighted the issue of children “not reaching the expected level” before they start school.
Ms Longfield has recently highlighted concern that almost one in five children start school not able to communicate at the expected level.
She said many experience communication problems throughout their childhood, often “facing a postcode lottery of care”.
Ms Longfield pointed to an "enormous variation" in how much is spent per child, depending on where they live.
She said a lack of joined-up services and overall responsibility meant that children with speech and language difficulties could fall through the gaps, wait months to be seen or may not be seen at all.
Yesterday, she said efforts to improve the life chances for vulnerable youngsters are being hampered by "paralysis" in Westminster and the focus on Brexit.