Leading article: Literacy still has to improve

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The Independent Online

The Government was given a timely reminder this week by the standards watchdog, Ofsted, that - while it may have presided over an improvement in primary school reading standards - there is still much work to be done.

The Government was given a timely reminder this week by the standards watchdog, Ofsted, that - while it may have presided over an improvement in primary school reading standards - there is still much work to be done. Ofsted's stark figures show that seven years after the National Literacy Strategy was introduced and every pupil began to spend an hour a day reading, one in three children in 2,235 primary schools still leaves without being able to read properly.

Although Ofsted acknowledges that although teacher training standards have improved over the past decade, with more young recruits being taught how to master the teaching of phonics, there are still an unacceptable number who struggle to teach their children to read. These individuals need a crash course to improve their performance in the classroom, and if they don't pass muster (and the number of recruits into primary teaching courses continues to exceed targets as it has in previous years), they need to be weeded out of the profession and replaced with teachers who will not ruin their pupils' life chances. Figures show that if a child can reach level four in the national curriculum reading scales at age 11, they have a 68 per cent chance of going on to get at least five top A* to C grade passes at GCSE.

Of those failing to reach this standard, only 10 per cent go on to get five A* to C grade passes. Ofsted's report also states that parents need to be encouraged to help their children to read - and criticises schools that fail to do so for their lack of leadership. The chief inspector, David Bell, says that teachers should explain to parents how a book at bedtime or on the bus is worth its weight in gold in engendering a love of reading at an early age.

Finally, though, there is some good news thanks to the latest TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Survey) report on the attainment of 10- and 14-year-olds in maths and science around the world. TIMSS tests pupils every four years in the two subjects and yesterday's report - its third - shows that pupils in England are improving faster than in any other country on earth. This is the first independent international evidence, then, that the maths strategy in primary schools is working well. Now we need to ensure that these improvements work their way through to secondary schools.

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