Moving English Forward in Primary and Secondary Schools

By Jarrett, Phil | NATE Classroom, Summer 2012 | Go to article overview

Moving English Forward in Primary and Secondary Schools


Jarrett, Phil, NATE Classroom


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The recent Ofsted report on English (Moving | English Forward; action to raise standards in j English [110118], Ofsted, 2012) aims to answer ^ two related questions: what is the current state of English in schools and how might standards be improved?

Many NATE members will be aware that much of our recent work has focused on identifying and sharing good practice in English. Last year, we published a series of case studies of schools that achieved excellence in English (Excellence in English [100229], Ofsted, 2011). We have also set up a good practice website (ofsted. gov.uk/resources/goodpractice) that contains a number of English examples in primary and secondary schools, as well as colleges. Many teachers have already told us how helpful they have found this.

The report confirms that there is much good English practice in many of our schools. Around 70% of schools inspected in the survey were judged to be good or outstanding in English. This reflects the high profile the subject enjoys in schools, the t emphasis placed on raising standards in English and the impact of recent training and support. It should be noted, however, that the survey did not include visits to schools in a category of concern. We also know that attainment has continued to rise at the end of Key Stage 4 with over 70% of students achieving a grade C or above.

However, standards in English at the end of Key Stage 2 have changed very little over recent years and one in five primary pupils does not achieve the nationally expected standard in English. Ear more pupils, especially boys, fail to reach this standard in writing and across all key stages girls continue to outperform boys in English. We should also all be concerned that those pupils who are known to be eligible for free school meals achieve far less highly in English than others. In addition, the government has made it clear that floor standards in English need to rise still further and surveys suggest that standards have slipped in comparison with our international competitors. It is these issues that the report explores.

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The report is in two parts. Part A highlights the main strengths and weaknesses in English and presents the evidence from the survey inspection visits. Part B identifies ten actions to raise standards of English in schools. Some of the issues identified, such as encouraging pupils to read widely and improving provision for literacy across all departments in secondary schools, have been noted as areas for concern in earlier Ofsted subject reports. This report recommends a range of practical measures that schools and the government should take to raise standards and 'move English forward' in schools.

Recommendations

There is no space in a short article like this to go into the report's findings in detail and I hope that all NATE members will seek out the report and look at it closely. There are two specific recommendations about primary schools. The first is that all nursery and primary schools should seek to implement systematic programmes to develop the oral communications skills of the very youngest children in the Early Years Foundation Stage. The report argues that children need confidence in their spoken language, and a wide vocabulary, if they are to make later progress in reading and writing. The second recommendation is that the Department for Education should seek to enhance the specialist knowledge of primary teachers in English. If attainment is to rise still further in primary schools, teachers, and especially subject leaders in English, need to have a more secure understanding in areas such as poetry, grammar and contemporary children's literature.

A key section of the report deals with issues of teaching and learning in English and applies to both primary and secondary teachers. This has already attracted a fair amount of press attention. …

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