Ofsted has today published ‘Bold beginnings’, its report into how reading, writing and maths are taught to pupils in the reception year.
The research is based on visits to 41 “successful” primary schools during the summer term, and forms part of the watchdog’s wider review of the curriculum across all school phases.
In 2016, just 72 per cent of pupils achieved a good level of development in their reception year, which fell to 54 per cent among disadvantaged pupils.
Ofsted’s latest research highlights a lack of guidance on what four- and five-year-olds should be taught, and a lack of clarity around how much time schools should dedicate to each area of learning.
Many leaders are concerned that pupils leave reception unprepared for year 1, even if they had reached the required “early learning goals”. Teachers also revealed they found the processes of the early years foundation stage profile “burdensome”.
Most heads felt that newly-qualified teachers were “not well prepared” to teach mathematics, reading and writing in reception.
In response, Ofsted has made 15 recommendations for schools, initial teacher training providers, the Department for Education and the inspectorate itself.
1. Make the teaching of reading, including systematic synthetic phonics the “core purpose” of the reception year
2. Attach greater importance to the teaching of numbers in building children’s fluency in counting, recognising small numbers of items, comparing numbers and solving problems
3. Ensure that when children are learning to write, resources are suitable for their stage of development and that they are taught correct pencil grip and how to sit correctly at a table
4. Devote sufficient time each day to the direct teaching of reading, writing and mathematics, including frequent opportunities for children to practise and consolidate their skills
5. Use the early-years foundation stage profile as a guide to end-of-reception expectations rather than to define what should be taught
For initial teacher education providers
6. Make sure all primary trainees have sufficient knowledge of reception, so they understand progression from the early years
7. Devote a greater proportion of training programmes to the teaching of reading, including systematic, synthetic phonics as the route to decoding words, and the composition of numbers, so all newly-qualified teachers are competent and confident to teach early literacy and mathematics
For the Department for Education
8. Review the statutory early-years foundation stage framework to ensure schools better understand the nature and purpose of the reception year, and what should be taught
9. Review the content of the early-years foundation stage profile so there is greater alignment between the early-learning goals at the end of the reception year and the national curriculum for year 1
10. Streamline the early-years foundation stage profile and associated moderation processes so they reduce teachers’ assessment workload and become more useful for benchmarking the knowledge and understanding children need
11. Raise the profile of early maths teaching, similar to the investment made in early reading and the teaching of systematic synthetic phonics, by supporting the development of appropriate schemes and resources
12. Review and update guidance for inspectors about evaluating the quality of provision in reception
13. Sharpen the focus on the teaching of reading and numbers during the inspection of schools and initial teacher education providers
14. Use the findings of this report to help shape the new education inspection framework for September 2019
15. Report regularly on reading in primary schools to identify good practice and highlight the importance of this subject as the gatekeeper to a broad and balanced curriculum