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Literacy news

Ofsted inspectors say literacy standards 'fall short'

15 Nov 2010

Too many children leave primary school unable to read or write well enough, reports Head of Ofsted Christine Gilbert.

Ms Gilbert says:

"Despite some major initiatives in recent years to raise standards in reading and writing, the levels achieved by many children at the end of primary school fall stubbornly short of what is achievable.”

Overall, there was a slight rise in reading and writing levels on last year's results. Ofsted has published a report which looks at how 12 top-rated schools teach children to read and write and hopes it will be a guide to the best practice in teaching phonics. Phonics is widely used in schools - often in combination with other methods of teaching children to read - but Ms Gilbert says it must be taught rigorously and systematically to have the best effect.

It is a message the coalition government is keen to spread. Education Secretary Michael Gove wants children to be taught to read using phonics and before the election had said they should be able to do so by the age of six.

The government is planning on introducing "a simple reading test" for six-year-olds to help identify those who need extra help. Tests will be piloted for a year from next June.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb says:

"This report provides further evidence of the success of systematic synthetic phonics in teaching children to read. The government is determined to raise the standard of reading in the first years of primary school so that children can master the basic decoding skills of reading early and then spend the rest of primary school reading to learn.

"The schools highlighted in the report are also characterised by the high expectations which they place on pupils, and how those pupils rise to the challenge - achieving in areas of relatively high deprivation."

Teachers and head teachers say phonics is a good way of teaching children to read, but is not a magic formula and good teachers will use various strategies to meet their pupils' needs.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, says:

"Literacy is a fundamental skill and right. The overwhelming majority of children reach good standards but we want every child to get there. More than that, we want every child to enjoy reading and writing.

"Few will be surprised to discover that children benefit from consistent, structured, well-paced teaching coupled with praise and reinforcement.This report demonstrates that there are proven strategies, and some 'essentials', but no magic formula to get children reading."

Read more on the BBC website.

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