A report showing that half of children are not ready for school at the age of five makes “scary” reading, said UKIP education spokesman Paul Nuttall.

“A good basic education is essential for all our children and those who start behind are immediately at a disadvantage and often are never able to catch up,” said Mr Nuttall, deputy party leader.

“As North West MEP I’m particularly concerned that three of the sixth worst  results are from schools in my constituency.

“This report by the University College London showing only 52% of children in England have reached ‘a good’ level of development when they start school is frankly scary and makes depressing reading.

“It raises huge questions as to why this country is seemingly going backwards in terms of education rather than forwards and each day seems to throw up more damning statistics.

“Without a well-educated work force we cannot compete in the global market and that is essential in this day and age.

“It certainly throws up questions as to whether the government’s encouragement, bordering on insistence, that mums return to work as a matter of urgency, instead of devoting themselves to spending the early years of their children’s lives with them at home, is the right path to follow.

“That was the norm 50 years ago and children learnt the basics at home and turned up at the school gates aged five ready for formal education. And virtually all left at 11 able to fluently read and write, which is no longer the case.

“Apparently children from richer families are more likely to have a good level of development than those from poorer families so improving living standards and reducing deprivation could be seen as step in the right direction.

“But this report has raised more questions than answers. It is an extremely serious issue which has profound effects for the children and the nation and those answers are needed urgently,” said Mr Nuttall.