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.