The data comes after Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, ordered former Cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom and Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, to conduct a major review of early years care to improve the life chances of babies and toddlers in poorer families across the country.

In a joint article for The Telegraph, the pair said “the building blocks for lifelong emotional health lie in the first 1,001 days of an infant’s life”.

Following the publication of the report, Ms Longfield said: “Each year, 82,000 children in England start school significantly behind where they should be at the age of five. That’s one in seven children, or four children in every classroom. 

“This report shows that their life chances can already be undermined at this point if there is no joined-up system of early support to help them get ready to learn.

“Nurseries and early years support play a vital role in helping children prepare for school, but coronavirus and lockdown have put many at risk of closure. The consequences could be thousands of children missing out on the vital support that sets them on a path to a good education and better prospects.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Our fantastic nurseries, childminders and pre-schools provide crucial support for children and families. That’s why this Government has always championed the early years sector and why we are continuing to back early years entitlements with £3.6 billion this year.

“Alongside this we have protected early years settings throughout the pandemic with significant financial and business support, including through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

“We are investing in early years organisations to help them boost disadvantaged children’s development, with grants targeted at improving outcomes for young children at risk of falling behind by age five, and for those with special educational needs.”

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