Schools still fail to understand why reading matters

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The report by school inspectors into reading standards in primary schools is a chastening one for ministers. Seven years into the Government's National Literacy Strategy, in more than 2,000 primary schools at least one in three pupils is still struggling to read by the age of 11.

The report by school inspectors into reading standards in primary schools is a chastening one for ministers. Seven years into the Government's National Literacy Strategy, in more than 2,000 primary schools at least one in three pupils is still struggling to read by the age of 11.

The culprits, according to David Bell, the chief executive of the education standards watchdog Ofsted, are their teachers. Many of them are not well trained enough in teaching pupils how to read. "It is unacceptable that too many children do not learn to read properly because the adults who teach them lack sufficient knowledge to do so effectively," he declares. He is right. That so many children are leaving primary school devoid of the competence and confidence in reading expected of their age group is lamentable.

Fortunately, standards have risen in most primary schools. This is what makes the under-performance of the one in 10 schools stand out so starkly.Ofsted praises the standard of many newly qualified teachers who have benefited from changes to the teacher-training curriculum. The supply of them is more than adequate, as recruitment to primary-teacher training courses has held up, and the picture looks rosy for the foreseeable future.

For those teachers who have not managed to grasp the nettle of teaching their pupils how to read, the Ofsted report recommends urgent professional development. It also criticises headteachers who fail to take enough interest in reading and enthusing their staff with a desire to improve standards. In one case, a headteacher was asked by an inspector what was being done to improve reading standards in his school. The answer was: "I'll go and see."

Ofsted is right about the need for urgent action to improve the standards of time-serving teachers who are not delivering improved standards. But if they still fail to deliver after further training, surely - as more and more excellent, newly qualified primary school teachers come through the ranks of our training colleges - there is a case for redeploying them elsewhere.

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