Page last updated at 05:53 GMT, Tuesday, 31 March 2009 06:53 UK

Children's reading not improving


This school in Porthmadog, Gwynedd was highlighted for its good practice in teaching reading and writing

Primary school pupils in Wales are not making enough progress in reading and writing, the inspection body Estyn says.

It found the proportion of five to seven-year-olds with good levels of reading and writing has stopped rising over the past five years.

Estyn said more schools need to adopt best practice to improve young pupils' skills in both English and Welsh.

The assembly government said it "could not afford to be complacent".

The report found the overall quality of teaching in English and Welsh of most five to seven-year-olds is good.

Estyn inspectors visited around 400 primary schools between 2005-2008, looking at the teaching of the four strands of language: listening, speaking, reading and writing on the basis that the strands are interrelated and develop together.

Education experts say a pupil's difficulty with listening and speaking, known as oracy, limits progress in learning to read and write.

Estyn said by the age of seven, the gap between boys' and girls' performance is almost three times wider than in maths and science.

The slow rate at which boys develop reading and writing skills is recognised as one of the contributory factors that lead to an even wider gender gap later on in learning.

Estyn report
Idea: "Real world" writing experiences for pupils, taken up by a large primary school in Swansea
Strategy: Year 2 pupils taken to a cafe, where they met the owner, customers, tried on the uniforms, tasted food
Result: "High quality" writing, with pupils gaining and using a wider vocabulary

Inspectors found that this gap can be greatly reduced if teachers understand the characteristics and behaviours of individual boys very well and adapt their teaching to meet boys' learning needs.

The report found the percentage of seven-year-old pupils achieving at least level 2 (an expected attainment level) in English and Welsh has remained at a similar level since 2000.

In 2008, around one in five primary pupils did not achieve the level expected of the great majority.

The report said: "When pupils have limited oral skills, this has a direct effect on their early progress in developing reading and writing skills.

"Improving pupils' oracy skills must therefore be a vital component of schools' work to raise standards of reading and writing."

The service's chief inspector, Dr Bill Maxwell, said schools in Wales had helped standards to improve in English and Welsh with a focus ten years ago on improving the planning and teaching of reading.

He said many schools needed to focus on areas which included improving pupils' oracy skills and developing pupils' reading and writing skills in their subject studies.

Dr Maxwell also said schools should look at improving provision for more able and talented pupils and focusing more strongly on improving pupils' writing skills.

He said: "Being able to read and write accurately, fluently and with confidence and understanding is crucial not only for achieving high standards in English and Welsh, but also for giving pupils more opportunities for success in all subjects."


A Welsh Assembly Government spokesperson said: "It is pleasing to note that the inspectorate has confirmed that many pupils gain good reading and writing skills in English and Welsh as a first language that enable them to progress well in their learning.

"Our foundation phase places a firm emphasis on language, literacy and communication skills to support the development of children's skills in speaking, listening, reading, writing and communicating.

"The findings will be especially relevant to practitioners engaged in the roll-out of the foundation phase.

"Although we are making good progress in this area we can't afford to be complacent. The findings will inform wider initiatives to improve literacy."

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