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Department for Education Business Plan and the Schools White Paper

14 Dec 2010

One passage in the schools white paper begins “Learning to read is the first and most important activity any child undertakes at school.” This continues the emphasis the coalition government has already placed on young children “mastering the basics” of reading. Indeed the white paper says that as reading “is an area of such fundamental importance, we will go further than in any other area in actively supporting best practice.” This includes encouraging and providing resources for all primary schools to teach systematic synthetic phonics, something which is a departure from the department’s focus on freedoms across other areas of school life.

Along with the provision of resources the white paper announces plans to enhance Ofsted inspectors’ expertise in assessing the teaching of reading “so that their judgements reflect appropriate expectations and recognise particular features of systematic synthetic phonics teaching”. This will be combined with reform of initial teacher training, so that it more comprehensively covers phonics, with the aim of ensuring teachers have the confidence to teach using the method.

The most controversial proposal on literacy, and perhaps in the whole paper, is the confirmation that a “reading check” will be introduced for all six-year-olds. Designed to ensure early intervention of those children who are falling behind their peers in reading the proposal has drawn criticism for putting more pressure and testing requirements onto young children. Speaking at a National Literacy Trust event during this year’s Conservative party conference Minister for Schools Nick Gibb MP was keen to allay fears about the potential damage to children of the test, instead focusing on the need to ensure that as children move higher up the education system they do not fall behind and become alienated from their schools. The Department for Education’s business plan, released shortly before the white paper, states that the test will be piloted in June 2011 and rolled out nationally in June 2012.

While literacy features prominently in the schools white paper the major focus of the current reforms is clearly the teaching profession. As mentioned above the release of the white paper was accompanied by the release of a support paper entitled The Case for Change. The support paper deals almost entirely with reform of the teaching profession a topic which is also widely covered in the main white paper.

Proposed reforms to teaching include:

  • Continuing “to raise the quality of new entrants to the teaching profession, by: ceasing to provide Department for Education funding for initial teacher training for those graduates who have at least a 2:2 degree; expanding Teach First; offering financial incentives to attract more of the very best graduates in shortage subjects into teaching; and enabling more talented career changers to become teachers.
  • Reforming initial teacher training
  • Developing a national network of Teaching Schools on the model of teaching hospitals


The proposals in the white paper will now go into a bill before parliament and over the coming years will radically alter the education and literacy landscape in the UK.

Tags: Children, England, National Young Readers' Programme, Partners in Literacy, Policy, Reading Champions, Reading Connects, Reading The Game, Schools & teaching, Talk for Writing, Words for Work

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