The number of five-year-olds reaching a good level of development has risen sharply from 52 per cent to 60 per cent this year.
Children are assessed by their teachers on 17 different areas of learning, including reading, writing, numbers and self-confidence. They are considered to be at a good level of development if they reach expectations in 12 of them, including being able to read simple sentences and count to 20.
The results of the early years foundation stage profile assessments, published by the government today, show that while 90 per cent of children can dress themselves by the end of Reception, only 67 per cent can write sentences with some correct and some plausible spellings.
The gender gap is most apparent in writing where 75 per cent of girls are already writing sentences that adults can read, compared with 59 per cent of boys. But while girls are still ahead of boys in all measures, the gender gap is narrowing in many of them.
The proportion of children in the most deprived areas reaching a good level of development has increased from 44 per cent last year to 53 per cent this year. But the gap between those children and the rest remains the same at 12 percentage points.
Childcare minister Sam Gyimah said: "The statistics published today clearly show that some progress is being made but more must be done to ensure children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, are put on the right path.
"Parents need to be confident that while their children are out of their care, they’re not only safe, happy and having fun but at the same time developing important skills like playing confidently with their friends, speaking and understanding words, letters and numbers."
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said: “We are encouraged to see such a marked improvement in the EYFS profile results.
“Clearly, there is still work to be done. Outcomes continue to vary between different areas of learning, while boys are still less likely to achieve a good level of development than girls – though we are pleased to see that this gap is narrowing in most areas.”
The early years foundation stage profile was changed in 2013. Before then children were rated against a nine-point scale, where point 1 was low and point 9 was "exceeding expectations" in 13 different areas.
The criteria for a good level of development were changed at the same time, with more areas included and the standard for maths being raised from being able to count to 10 to being able to count to 20 and do simple calculations.
Poor pupils already falling dramatically behind at school by age of five 21 November 2013
Half of five-year-olds at ‘good level’ by end of reception 24 October 2013