WARRINGTON has been ranked as the worst local authority in the country for early years children reaching a good level of development if they receive a free school meal.

Youngsters up the age of five are less likely to achieve well in comparison to other towns and cities in England, a report has revealed.

But a council spokesman has hit back at the report, claiming that the findings are not ‘an accurate reflection of children’s performance’.

A report published by Ofsted revealed that only 18 per cent of early years youngsters achieve well in communication and language, physical, personal, social and emotional development and within literacy and maths.

Warrington fell significantly behind neighbouring local authorities for improving the outcomes for deprived children in the community.

Forty three per cent of children achieved a good level of development in St Helens, with Cheshire East and Cheshire West and Chester reaching 36 per cent and 31 per cent respectively.

A council spokesman said: “Warrington’s current performance has been assessed under a new framework for the early foundation stage, which was introduced in September 2012.

“Under the previous framework Warrington has always performed well so, while we are now taking on board the changes within the revised framework, it is fair to say that the dip in performance is more a reflection of the need to allow time for the new framework to embed rather than an accurate reflection of children’s performance.

“We have already alerted schools to this data and are working with moderators to revise our support to early years groups and schools.

“We recognise it is within the early years that we can make the biggest difference in transforming the lives of our most vulnerable children and will be working closely with groups to ensure the new framework is embedded.”