Schools to Blame for the Children Who Hate Books; Ofsted Attacks Teaching That Holds Back Fastest Pupils

The Evening Standard (London, England), December 14, 2004 | Go to article overview
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Schools to Blame for the Children Who Hate Books; Ofsted Attacks Teaching That Holds Back Fastest Pupils


Byline: DOMINIC HAYES

THE "unacceptable" failure of many schools to teach children to read properly is laid bare today in a damning report from education watchdog Ofsted.

Underachieving children are being "let down by the system", despite a decade of attempts to force schools to improve the teaching of reading.

Teachers in the worst schools are often too ready to blame parents for not caring enough to make sure their children read at home, Ofsted said. But the best schools make no excuses for underachievement, even if most pupils do not speak English as their first language. Ofsted found that high-quality teaching and willingness to do whatever it takes to get children reading made a crucial difference.

Its report, Reading For Purpose And Pleasure, is the result of Ofsted's third major investigation into the quality of reading in English state primary schools in little more than a decade. Today's findings are likely to trigger yet another bout of national soul-searching over the persistence of what the watchdog's chief inspector David Bell called a "stubborn core of pupils at the bottom end of the scale".

The main failings that Ofsted highlights today include: . Too many teachers still do not know how to teach reading properly, despite the introduction of the national literacy strategy six years ago.

. Too many headteachers know too little about how reading should be taught and fail to ensure their staff apply the best techniques consistently.

. Many schools do not encourage children to read for pleasure, even when they are good at it. Most of the schools do not see this as a problem.

. By the age of 10, the gap between the best and worst readers is among the highest in the industrialised world.

. Children who fall behind often end up with a hatred of reading, making it much more difficult for them to improve later on.

Inspectors visited 45 primary schools across a wide social spectrum and talked to pupils and teachers.

Many of their observations make depressing reading.

One inspector spoke to a boy of eight already below the level expected for his age. The inspector wrote: "I pick up the book and ask if we can read this one together.

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