The following quotes are taken from 'The Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills 2019/20
The best possible curriculum will still fail if not taught well. A common characteristic of outstanding schools is that they have really well-trained and experienced teachers who have strong subject and pedagogical knowledge, and who feel valued by senior leaders. The lessons they deliver build on prior learning and are underpinned by formative assessment in order to discover and address misconceptions and adapt lessons as they go.
In state-funded special schools, we similarly find that the most effective schools have an ambitious curriculum that prepares pupils well for the future. The best special schools attend to both content and sequencing of the curriculum in all subjects. The best primary special schools systematically build pupils’ knowledge of phonics and promote a love of reading. Special schools judged less than good and those that are declining show weaknesses in both.
Early reading – the first priority
If we want to ensure that our children flourish, we need to help them make the best possible start.
It should be the first priority of every primary school to make every child a proficient reader. Reading is not only the key to the curriculum and an essential life skill, it is also a protective factor: poor reading leads to later low attainment across subjects and to poor behaviour and self-control.4 Phonics and early reading are the foundation for later success.
Fortunately, how to make sure children are proficient readers is one of the best evidenced areas in education. The ‘simple view of reading’, which finds that reading comprehension is a function of decoding skills and understanding of words’ meanings, has extensive scientific grounding.5 We also have a very strong body of knowledge on how to teach the crucial decoding skills, using systematic synthetic phonics instruction.6 This is why our inspections prioritise both the teaching of decoding skills and language comprehension in Reception and key stage 1. It has also been a theme of our work in the last few years, through Annual Reports and research.7
References from page 13:
Note: This is the IFERI thread featuring the controversial 'Bold Beginnings' report that Ofsted has referenced on page 13:viewtopic.php?f=3&t=921
We have not been alone in our efforts. Many educators and researchers have been pushing at this door for a long time, and government has put in place a range of useful initiatives over the past 10 years:
the introduction of the phonics screening check in 2012; the requirement to develop pupils’ phonics knowledge in the key stage 1 national curriculum; and the £43 million investment in primary English hubs to build a network of excellent phonics teaching in every region. There was an improvement in our ranking on reading in the international PISA tests between 2015 and 2018. England now outperforms the OECD average by 18 score points.8
It is therefore pleasing and unsurprising to see that leaders are increasingly prioritising early reading. Most schools we inspected this year, including those judged to be good or outstanding, had recently reviewed their curriculum for early reading. Some schools are taking specific action to improve early reading, for example by identifying the need for a phonics or reading lead who leads and/or teaches in either early years or key stage 1. In early years and key stages 1 and 2, there is growing attention to how regularly adults read to children, immersing them in a range of stories, rhymes, poems and non-fiction. Leaders rightly recognise that this will develop pupils’ language comprehension and instil an interest in reading for both purpose and pleasure.
Schools are also placing greater emphasis on the teaching of phonics. Phonics is frequently being taught from the start of Reception. Many schools have either introduced a new approach to the teaching of phonics or have made changes to improve the consistency of phonics teaching. Many have recently purchased sets of new books that are decodable.
However, it is extremely important that reading books closely match pupils’ phonics knowledge. Schools should be using a structured phonics programme that has decodable reading books in a sequence that carefully matches the letter–sound correspondences that children have learned. Otherwise, pupils will be expected to guess words for which they have not learned the letter–sound correspondence and will miss out on opportunities to practise their decoding skills. This guessing game can be very dispiriting for young children, particularly those at the lower attaining end or with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND), and in fact can put them off reading altogether.
In outstanding schools, leaders instil a sense of urgency in teaching the lowest attaining 20% of pupils to read, at both key stages 1 and 2. They do not settle for phonics screening check results that are in line with the national average or explain pupils’ poor progress by their background. In outstanding schools, books match sounds. This means that children build confidence and fluency from the very beginning of learning to read. Teachers read books aloud to pupils who cannot yet read them and they do not expect struggling readers to read books that include words they cannot read. The teaching of phonics is rigorous and is done by staff who have been trained to use the method well, which ensures that they choose appropriate activities so that pupils get lots of practice and keep up with the expected pace of the programme.
The phonics/reading leader in a school has to have expertise and experience in teaching phonics and be given dedicated time to fulfil their role. But all staff need a thorough understanding of the school’s chosen phonics programme. Well-trained staff can spot any child who has not secured the intended learning and provide extra support so that these pupils get additional practice in the specific aspects of phonics they are struggling with.
Of course, phonics just unlocks the code to becoming a reader. In the outstanding schools we have seen this year, once children are reading accurately and confidently, teachers use their deep knowledge of children’s literature to guide children’s independent reading choices. This heightens children’s enthusiasm for reading and starts to instil the love of reading we want to see in all schools.
However, this is not the case everywhere. There is still work to do to ensure that all children get the teaching they need to become proficient readers. Phonics programmes are not being implemented consistently well in all schools. Where schools use a phonics programme that is not supported by resources, including books and sufficient guidance for staff, this often leads to greater inconsistency and a lack of rigour in the teaching of phonics. These schools also find it more difficult to make sure that books are well matched to pupils’ phonics knowledge and that staff gain sufficient expertise in the teaching of phonics. Lower-attaining readers are not always receiving the right type or amount of support to help them catch up quickly. There are too many ‘lost’ readers in key stage 2 who are suffering from a legacy of poor phonics teaching. This is particularly noticeable in Years 2, 3 and 4 when struggling readers have often fallen further and further behind their peers. These pupils’ progress is hindered by limited practice or practice not being related precisely to the gaps in their learning. In turn, this means that not only do they then struggle with reading, but they consequently also have difficulty accessing the full range of curriculum subjects in key stage 2 and beyond.
In early years, teachers in the most successful schools and school nurseries put talking at the heart of their curriculum. They help children talk about what they are doing and learning throughout the day, in each area of learning. Early reading itself is built on a foundation of language and communication.
Our inspection evidence shows that providers in the registered early years sector recognise the importance of the curriculum for communication and language so children have the skills they need for the future. Outstanding providers are exceptionally skilful in developing children’s communication and language, for example through skilful questioning and animated storytelling.
Our new initial teacher education (ITE) inspection framework aims to reinforce our focus on phonics and address the remaining issues in phonics teaching, by ensuring that all inspections of primary and early years ITE include a focused review of early reading and phonics.9 The framework requires that for primary provision to be rated good, training has to ensure that trainees learn to teach early reading using systematic synthetic phonics, and that trainees are not taught to teach competing approaches to early reading. Trainees should be taught the importance of providing pupils with enough structured practice to secure fluency in both reading and numeracy work.
Improving ‘stuck’ schools
Over the past few years, we have highlighted the plight of ‘stuck schools’. These are schools that have not had a rating of good or outstanding for 13 years, going back to 2007.
Before we introduced the EIF, there were 415 stuck schools. This year, we have looked at how many of those remain stuck, what our inspection evidence suggests about their characteristics and what it suggests about those that have become ‘unstuck’.
Under the EIF, just under half of stuck schools that were inspected improved to good. This supports the conclusions of our January 2020 research report ‘Fight or flight? How “stuck” schools are overcoming isolation’,10 which concluded that no school should be written off, and that every school could improve to good if leaders concentrated on improving a small number of key things, starting with behaviour and high standards of teaching and learning. ‘Unstuck’ schools had also typically benefited from strong support from a multi-academy trust (MAT).
So far, 27% of the 415 original stuck schools have been inspected under the EIF (110 schools). Fifty-three schools had improved to good at their most recent inspection and 57 had not. Fourteen of the 23 inadequate schools moved up to a judgement of requires improvement this year, but are still ‘stuck’ as they are not yet good.
A number of factors distinguished schools that had improved, as shown in Table 1. It is no surprise that the schools that improved did so through planning an ambitious curriculum for all, focusing on phonics in primary schools and supporting staff to be experts in their subjects. All schools have the capacity to improve, but those that have struggled for a while should focus on getting basic processes around curriculum, behaviour and quality of teaching right.
References on page 16: