The Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) results, published by the Department for Education, show that 71.5 per cent of children achieved a good level of development in 2018, a 0.8 percentage point increase on 2017. The figure has been improving consistently since 2012 when 51.7 per cent of children achieved a good level of development.
The statistics also show that girls continue to do better than boys in the early years, but the gender gap has decreased.
The gender gap between girls and boys for the percentage of children achieving a good level of development has reduced in each year since 2014 and fell from 13.7 percentage points in 2017 to 13.5 percentage points in 2018.
Trials of the controversial new test for reception-age children got under way last month. The baseline tests were announced last year by the government as a way of assessing children's progress throughout primary school.
But the plans have received criticism from academics, education experts and early years leaders, who say testing at such a young age is unreliable.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said the fact the EYFSP figures continue to rise year on year is a testament to the dedication and hard work of early years practitioners.
"As always, these results serve as a timely reminder of the value of assessing children across a broad range of early skills," he said.
"It's a shame therefore, that rather than feeling encouraged by today's statistics and supported to carry on delivering quality care and education that supports children across all areas of learning, many practitioners will instead be worried about the ongoing shift in government policy towards a much more formalised approach to early education, and that it will force them to start focusing on narrower, easier-to-measure skills to the detriment of children's early learning.
"While some would argue that the EYFS Profile is not a perfect assessment, its strength undoubtedly lies in its broad and observational nature, and the fact that it looks at the EYFS as a stage of learning in its own right.
"But with plans to reintroduce baseline assessment and narrow the early years goals, the government has made clear that the planned direction of travel for early education is one that focuses on preparing for Key Stage 1, with a heavy emphasis on numeracy and literacy alone - a clear step in completely the wrong direction."