THE number of Bradford children who start school unable to go to the toilet or put on a coat by themselves is “shocking”, says a Government adviser.

Just 31 per cent of the poorest city pupils – and 47 per cent from wealthier backgrounds – are ‘school ready’ at the age of five, official figures show.

Now Alan Milburn, a Government adviser, has urged “timid” ministers to get tough by introducing ‘parenting classes’, warning the burden of teaching the basics is falling unfairly on schools.

The aim would be to make 85 per cent of children ‘school ready’ by 2020 and all of them by 2025 – requiring a massive improvement in Bradford and elsewhere.

Alan Milburn, the head of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, said: “These figures are lamentable and shocking.

“Too many kids, by the age of five, are not ready to start school – they can’t say no, or use the toilet, or get their coat on, for example.

“Most parents do a great job, but some do not, and there has been a reluctance to call out bad parenting or to support more parents to develop their parenting skills.”

Despite the low figure, the proportion of poor five-year-olds ‘school ready’ is even lower in Calderdale (27 per cent) and Leeds (28 per cent). In Kirklees the figure is 32 per cent.

Mr Milburn, in his latest ‘state of the nation’ report, also raised the alarm over the stubborn attainment gap between rich and poor pupils at GCSE.

In Bradford, only 35.6 per cent of pupils receiving free schools meals achieve five good GCSEs, including English and maths – while 58 per cent of other pupils do.

The adviser called for a 25 per cent pay rise for teachers willing to work in “the worst schools in deprived areas”, to help end illiteracy and innumeracy.

The aim should be for at least 50 per cent of poorer pupils to achieve the GCSE benchmark by 2020.

Councillor Ralph Berry, executive for Children's Services at Bradford Council, said the issue of children being unprepared for school was a major priority in Bradford, and that a £50 million lottery grant for the Better Start Bradford project would help many children in this category. Announced in June, the 10-year project was set up to transform the lives of babies and young children in Bradford's poorest areas.

Cllr Berry added: "This is why we were focusing on getting this bid.

"There is evidence that this is something we are able to make good progress on. It is something that needs resourcing. It is all about making sure that every child gets the best start, and letting parents know they can help by more engagement with their babies, breast feeding, exercise, not smoking around children."

Councillor Debbie Davies, the Council's Conservative spokesman for young people, said: "I'm amazed that less than 50 per cent of all children are school ready. You would expect them to be able to do basic things by five. We all have a responsibility as parents to make sure children can do these things by the time they go to school."