Government adviser on health inequality Sir Michael Marmot highlighted data suggesting half of five-year-olds were not ready for school. He said high levels of deprivation and a lack of quality services and support for parents were holding children back. But ministers said investing in the early years was a priority. Since the mid-1990s, the proportion of national wealth being spent on the under-fives has more than doubled, although spending has dropped slightly in recent years. But Sir Michael, who is director of the University College London's Institute of Health Equity and led a ground-breaking review of health inequalities for the government in 2010, said the development of children in England was still lagging behind that of many other Western countries. Figures published last year by the Department of Education indicated 52% of children had "good development" at the end of reception year. The data is based on a whole range of factors, including emotional, social, physical and academic measures such as being able to count to 20, go to the toilet on their own, read and write simple sentences and speak using past, present and future tenses.