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A new study by government inspectors says that a lack of emphasis ...
A new study by government inspectors says that a lack of emphasis

on phonics and weaknesses in the way it is taught in primary schools

are hindering its impact on standards of English at the end of Key

Stage 1 (KS1).

In 2001 nearly one third of Year 2 pupils (aged seven) failed to

reach level 2B in reading and more than four in ten failed to reach

that level in writing in the KS1 tests.

The paper Teaching of Phonics, published on the Office for

Standards in Education's website(publications section), says that the

teaching of phonics in word level work is best in Reception classes

(ages 4 and 5), but even here teachers sometimes fail to cover the

material quickly enough and do not expect enough from children.

Word level work for six and seven year olds is either non-existent or

unsatisfactory in a quarter of classes, say HMI. There is a further

decline in both the amount and the quality of phonics work for eight

and nine year olds, for whom phonics is critically important in

learning to spell and to express themselves in writing.

OFSTED's evaluation of the National Literacy Strategy between 2000

and 2001 found that too many schools have failed to grasp what they

need to do to teach phonics in line with the expectations of the


Inspectors found that in the schools teaching phonics

successfully there was rapid, early coverage of phonic knowledge and

a focus on using this knowledge to read and spell. As a result

children made good progress in reading and writing independently.

Among the weaknesses holding back the less successful schools were

the lack of a consistent approach to phonics, with too many different

methods in use in classrooms, and insufficient training for teachers

in how to teach phonics.

In a separate survey on the teaching of literacy and mathematics in

reception classes, also published today on its web site, OFSTED says

that nearly all teachers are preparing pupils very successfully for

the next year of school.

Teachers are introducing the different parts of the literacy hour and

the daily mathematics lesson in stages and are skilful in teaching

young children in ways that make learning enjoyable.

Inspectors say that teaching assistants and nursery nurses have a

positive effect in the reception classes, helping teachers to meet

the needs of different children and providing opportunities for

children to work and play together.

Overall, HMI conclude, the first year of the new foundation

stage curriculum for under fives has made an encouraging start.


1. Both papers are principally aimed at classroom teachers, but also

carry recommendations for school managers, local education

authorities and those responsible for the National Literacy and

Numeracy Strategies (NLS and NNS).

2. HMI in OFSTED have been monitoring the impact of the NLS and NNS

on teaching and learning since they were introduced in 1998 and 1999

respectively. OFSTED's annual reviews of the two strategies are due

to be published early in December.

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