Fewer children in the North East are meeting expected literacy and numeracy targets by the age of five than the rest of the UK, according to new figures.
In some areas, less than half of under-fives met their Early Years Foundation Stage expected goals, the latest Department for Education (DfE) statistics reveal.
Regionwide, only 55% achieved the expected level in literacy and 58% in mathematics. This is compared to an average across England of 61% in literacy and 66% in mathematics.
The DfE released figures on the first set of assessments carried out under the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile following the changes in assessment implemented last September.
Last night, North East MPs said the Government needs to devote more resources to this area.
Only 45% of children in Gateshead reached their literacy target and 49% in mathematics.
Ian Mearns, Labour MP for Gateshead, said: “We have known for years that youngsters from more deprived backgrounds, particularly areas like the North East, are starting school at a lower base line.
“What it does show is we need to concentrate resources into children in the preschool stage.
“I am afraid to say we do often come across youngsters who come into nursery who literally function and are not able to speak or communicate properly.
“It is clear we need to target resources at those early years,” he said.
Mr Mearns also said help could be given to parents through other programmes.
“For some children their own parental communication skills leave something to be desired,” he added.
Figures were also low in Durham with 52% achieving expected levels in literacy and 53% in mathematics. Kevan Jones, Labour MP for North Durham, said the figures were worrying.
“These figures are concerning and that’s why I think it is important to put extra effort into early years education,” he said.
“When we were in government concentrating on Sure Start was important, but sadly with the coalition more Sure Start centres are closing.”
Chi Onwurah, Labour MP for Newcastle Central, said: “Countless studies have shown how important the early years are in helping a child reach their full potential regardless of background.”
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “Teachers in the North East are as dedicated and committed as teachers across the rest of the country.
“What these figures reflect is the impact of grinding poverty which is increasing in the North East due to the Coalition Government’s economic and social policies. All evidence shows this is a major factor in educational progression. However hard teachers work schools cannot tackle these issues alone.”
But Anne Swift, executive member of the NUT for the North East said she would not place too much significance on the figures as the broad bands used means the figures are open to interpretation.
“Whenever you take the results of the whole population across the country and put them in a league table, someone has to come out worse. With early years foundation, it is based on observations of children which are very broad bands and it is a best fit as well. I do not think you could place too much significance on this.”
She added: “One of the things I would say about the system is it’s so broad, each band children are to fit into, it makes it very difficult to be used meaningfully by teachers in year one.”
A DfE spokesperson said: “We are reforming childcare and increasing high quality provision so that all children regardless of their background get a good start in life. Ofsted is introducing a tougher early years inspection framework.
“We are also doubling the number of disadvantaged two-year-olds eligible for funded early education so they receive as strong a start in life as those children from better off families.”