SHEFFIELD's infant school pupils produced disappointing results in 2010 - going backwards in five out of six areas tested.
Only in writing did seven-year olds match performances achieved the year before, reversing trends of previous years - according to a report on education standards presented to councillors yesterday.
While under fives are still achieving good levels of development, it found they still lag behind national figures in the key areas of communication, language and literacy.
The report also warned the achievement gap between the lowest 20 per cent of under fives and the city's average had widened.
Improving standards among the city's most needy and vulnerable children remains one of the most challenging problems for education chiefs, it added.
Elsewhere, achievement levels for 11-year-olds are continuing to improve.
There has been progress in three of five areas surveyed and the pass rate at English and maths combined in 2010 is two per cent above the national rate of improvement.
"The challenge in primary schools is now to ensure that the decline in performances at the age of seven is not the start of a downward trend," it added.
"The aim will be to turn satisfactory schools into good ones and accelerate progress in those schools that are performing below or around floor targets."
At secondary level 16-year-olds are continuing to narrow the gap with the national average - a long-term ambition for the city - with challenges focusing on improving the pace of improvement, especially for vulnerable learners.
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