5:21PM BST 20 Oct 2011
Ministers have already pledged to address the concerns by overhauling early education.
Under plans, all two-year-olds will be given a compulsory “progress check” to find out whether they can use basic words, respond to familiar sounds, communicate their needs and play with friends.
A new-style Early Years Foundation Stage framework will also slash the number of targets all children are supposed to hit by the age of five – from the existing 69 to just 17.
The latest statistics – for 2011 – show marginal rise in the number of children achieving existing early learning “goals” but the Government insisted four-in-10 were still struggling.
Sarah Teather, the Children’s Minister, said: "It's encouraging to see a small improvement from last year. This is a testament to the hard work of early years professionals.
"However, it is not good enough that more than two out of five children start school without the solid foundation they need to succeed and that boys continue to lag behind girls.
"That's why we are improving the Early Years Foundation Stage and radically slimming down the curriculum so that it is more focused on getting children ready and able to take advantage of the opportunities they will get at school.
“From next September we are cutting down the number of early learning goals children need to reach at age five, with a stronger focus on the key skills that they will need to thrive as they grow up."