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«Leading the teaching of reading National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH) Think piece Resource National College for School Leadership ...»

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Inspiring leaders to

improve children’s lives

Schools and academies

Leading the teaching of reading

National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH)

Think piece


National College for School Leadership

Themed thinkpiece: Leading the teaching of reading 1

Background: why this is so important

The successful acquisition of reading skills is a key to unlocking learning across the curriculum. Within the school context, there are many opportunities not only to promote reading to underpin learning across the curriculum but also as a vehicle for promoting skills for life and lifelong learning. It is equally important to view the teaching of reading as an opportunity for ensuring that pupils read for pleasure and that this is encouraged from the early years and throughout the school experience.

Currently, while 84 per cent of all 11-year-old pupils achieve the expected standards in reading at the end of Key Stage 2, 1 in 5 boys do not. Not only does this impair their progress in primary schools, but it also continues to have a negative impact on these students’ learning and attainment during their time in secondary schools.

Children who cannot read are more likely to become disengaged and disruptive. A recent report by the Centre for Social Justice showed that between half and three-quarters of children permanently excluded from school

display significant literacy problems. The Department for Education (DfE) also noted in 2011:

The PISA 2009 study How Big is the Gap? highlights how far England has slipped behind other nations in reading. GCSE pupils’ reading is more than a year behind the standard of their peers in Shanghai, Korea and Finland. Overall, in the last nine years, England has fallen in PISA’s international tables from 7th to 25th in reading. This decline is reflected in the skills of England’s workforce. Employers report that young entrants to the labour market often lack the basic literacy skills to work effectively.

DfE, 2011 It is a prime responsibility for headteachers, in all phases of education, to ensure that pupils in their schools experience high-quality, sustained and systematic teaching to develop and improve essential reading skills.

This requires that headteachers have a good understanding of both the theory and practice of the successful teaching of reading, and also recognise the implications for effective whole-school leadership.

What research says about the teaching of reading As prospective headteachers, you will know of the growing body of evidence of the impact of systematic and rigorous approaches to teaching reading.

In Independent Review of the Early Teaching of Reading Jim Rose (2006) reported to the then secretary of state:

It is no surprise to find that the main ingredients for success in the teaching of beginner readers are:

a well trained teaching force; well designed, systematic programmes of work that are implemented thoroughly; incisive assessment of teaching and learning, and strong, supportive leadership.

He went on to assert that “the practice seen by the review shows that the systematic approach, which is generally understood as ‘synthetic’ phonics, offers the vast majority of young children the best and most direct route to becoming skilled readers and writers”.

Significantly, Rhona Johnston and Joyce Watson (2005) reported on the effectiveness of a synthetic phonics programme in Clackmannashire. This seven-year longitudinal study noted that the synthetic phonics group at the end of the project were 3 years 6 months ahead of chronological age in word reading and that the approach had a significant impact on the progress that boys made in reading when compared with performance of boys in an international survey of 35 countries.

–  –  –

Reading by Six (Ofsted, 2010) draws on the practice of 12 outstanding primary schools across England

and concludes:

The diligent, concentrated and systematic teaching of phonics is central to the success of all the schools that achieve high reading standards in Key Stage 1. This requires high-quality and expert teaching that follows a carefully planned and tightly structured approach to teaching phonic knowledge and skills. Pupils are given opportunities to apply what they have learnt through reading – including time to read aloud to adults to practise their decoding skills – writing and comprehension of what they are reading.

This report finds that:

the best practice has some strikingly common features as well as different manifestations.

Keys to the success of all the schools in the sample include:

− clarity and constant purpose − knowledge and understanding of the processes that help children learn to read − a programme of rigorous systematic phonics work as the prime approach to decoding print − consistent teaching of the highest quality, together with effective assessment of children’s progress and help for those who encounter difficulty in reading − effective leadership and management of the school and of literacy.

Underpinning these essentials are well-conceived and structured resources for teaching phonics systematically, effective training for school leaders, teachers and teaching assistants, and the efforts made by schools to involve families, in different ways, in supporting their children’s reading.

The report contains a range of illustrations of practice, two of which are copied below. These exemplify:

− the importance of establishing a secure and systematic foundation to reading with a structured approach to the teaching of phonics at the core of the development of early reading skills − planning for progression in a broad reading curriculum to enable children to develop the skills required to become fluent readers and improve standards of reading by the end of Year 6 so that more children achieve the expected levels − promoting high-quality teaching within a language-rich environment, with opportunities to apply reading skills across the whole curriculum and access to a wide range of reading materials that promote a love of reading

–  –  –

Fairlawn Primary School Fairlawn has a multi-ethnic school population in which 36 home languages are spoken. It welcomes this cosmopolitan mix. When the headteacher, Robin Bosher, arrived in 2002, he found a good school but judged that pupils could achieve much more.

The provision for children’s reading is meticulously organised, from when children start in the Fairlawn nursery annex to their departure as highly literate 11-year-olds. The nursery staff encourages careful listening to sounds and words in a language-rich environment, with specific phonics work four times a week. Children get to know three core books well each half term, and a wide range of resources stimulate interest in reading and writing. Progress is carefully assessed and recorded and there are daily opportunities for reading, ready access to books, and support for parents, including for those whose circumstances make them hard to reach. Systematic phonics teaching is based on Letters and Sounds. This is embedded in a 20-minute phonics session for the Reception and Key Stage 1 classes at 11am every morning. The sessions are rigorously structured and taught in a very engaging way, taking the children through a sequence of phases of phonic development. Their reading is consolidated by the books and activities used in the rest of the curriculum. Boxes of banded reading resources are available in every class and children are encouraged to choose books at an appropriate level.

The unusually long lunch period includes half an hour that is used for individual and guided reading.

Ofsted, 2010

Old Ford Primary School

The headteacher, Amanda Phillips, joined Old Ford Primary School in 2004 and now also heads Culloden Primary School. The school, in East London, provides for the immediate Bangladeshi community, together with White, Black African and Black Caribbean British children, and the children of Somali and European immigrant or refugee families.

There is a holistic approach to the teaching of reading in Old Ford in which phonics – based on Read Write Inc. – guided reading, early attention to writing and constant language development all play their part.

As a result, children’s reading progress is rapid and the majority of children reach Level 1A or 2C by the end of Year 1. The school is clear about wanting to develop confident readers who will experiment with words and take risks. Some children enter the nursery with a background that has not helped them to develop independence and prepared them to come to school.

Their speech is very limited. Priorities for the nursery are on language learning and practice; personal, social and emotional development, and instilling routines into the children’s lives. For the first half term, language skills are developed through songs, games, toys, stories and rhymes. In the second half term, the children who are deemed to be ready are introduced, as a group, to phonics and learn to distinguish between sounds. The general pattern of organisation through the school is reflected in a daily literacy hour, half an hour of guided reading in English and two hours of extended writing at some point in the week. The school also retains a commitment to Reading Recovery for a number of pupils each year in Year 1.

Ofsted, 2010 As prospective headteachers, in both primary and secondary phases, you should be familiar with the recommendations of these and other reports, and be able to synthesise from them and articulate what you believe should be the key characteristics of the effective teaching of reading in your school.

–  –  –

Activity From what you have read and researched write your statement of expectations for the teaching of reading in a school where you are the new headteacher.

Policy and responsibility You will also need to keep abreast of government policy expectations and the ways in which you will be both responsible and accountable for how pupils are taught and their attainment and progress. In 2011,

the government provided clear guidance about the expectations for teaching reading:

The Department is strongly encouraging schools to follow phonics programmes to completion so that children are confident in decoding and encoding more challenging letter combinations. We also advise that schools faithfully follow their chosen synthetic phonics programme, as case study evidence shows that a single approach is more effective than mixing and matching different schemes.

DfE, 2011 Clearly, statutory assessments at the end of Key Stages 1 and 2 provide evidence at individual, school and national level of attainment and progress in reading. The government also expects that children should have mastered basic reading skills by the end of Year 1 – confidently decoding words and starting to read more fluently.

From June 2012, the government has also introduced the Year 1 phonics screening check, which aims to help teachers to confirm whether individual pupils have grasped fundamental phonic decoding skills, and identify which children need extra help. The outcomes will be reported to parents and will also provide a national benchmark for phonic decoding. This will encourage schools to judge their performance against the national average, and set appropriate expectations for their pupils to achieve by the end of Year 1.

Phonics and reading are a key feature of the 2012 Ofsted inspection framework. Ofsted inspectors will focus on the teaching of reading in primary schools and listen to pupils reading aloud, with a particular focus on weaker readers. Evaluation criteria include: ‘standards in reading for six-year-olds as indicated by the most recent phonic screening check and any follow up screening undertaken by the school’. Guidance for the conduct of inspections

makes specific reference to hearing children read:

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