Good news. The gap between the lowest-achieving 20 per cent of youngsters and other pupils, as measured in the early-years foundation stage (EYFS) profile, has narrowed since last year in 108 local authorities. This left 40 authorities where it was worse than in 2008. In 20 authorities, it was also worse than in 2007. As closing this gap was one of Government's key national indicator targets, announced as part of the Chancellor's comprehensive spending review in 2007, the figures provide an insight into how well schools are doing in reducing inequalities at the point of entry to the education system.
Civil servants will, no doubt - ahead of any cuts that now seem inevitable - be examining the figures to see whether funding arrangements are responsible for the deterioration in outcome in some authorities or if local factors are to blame. The deteriorating outcomes in all three Lincolnshire authorities in 2009, compared with 2007, suggests that funding may be a factor. Indeed, 13 of the authorities with the worst results are in the east of England. Is this a statistical anomaly or some perverse bias towards the western half of the country?
Despite considerable improvements when compared with the position in 2007, the London authorities - especially those in inner London - still have among the worst outcomes in England. So, mark the report card good, but there is still room for improvement.
John Howson is a director of Education Data Surveys, part of TSL Education.