90% of reception and 82% of Year 1 classes achieved satisfactory or better standards in reading compared with writing standards of 72% and 71% respectively.
The report, published by the Office for Standards in Education, says that the teaching of writing has not received the same level of media attention, in-service teacher training or focussed consideration given to the teaching and learning of reading:
'There is even less of a consensus in early years classes as to how best to teach writing and there is greater variation in practice. The teaching of writing is less systematic than the teaching of reading and many teachers find it difficult to strike a balance between total freedom and total direction.'
Nevertheless, HMI found that all teachers gave reading and writing a high priority and adequate time. To an even greater extent than in the previous surveys on reading (published in 1990 and 1991) they saw an approach to literacy in all classes which used a mixture of teaching methods. No teachers, for example, relied entirely upon 'real books' or 'phonics'.
The report concludes: 'Despite much attention having been given in recent times to the discussion and development of the teaching of reading and to a lesser extent writing, the schools remained anxious to do better and literacy was often seen as a continuing priority for curriculum development.'