Primary experts call for reception year review

The government has been called on to launch an official review of the reception year after primary experts found a lack of consistency in how teachers taught pupils when they move into year 1.

The Teaching Schools Council today released its Effective Primary Teaching Practice report which made several recommendations on how to improve primary teaching.

The report, led by ex-primary headteacher Dame Reena Keeble (pictured below right), stated reception was “the most important year”, but found inconsistencies in teaching, compared to year 1.

The research, which was based on visits to 20 primary schools across England, found that reception teachers use a counting based approach to calculation, but said that pupils are then are then taught “subtraction by complementary addition” in year 1.

This leads teachers “to have to teach pupils to avoid previously learnt approaches”, the report stated. TSC woman

“There is confusion about expectations among teachers and heads leading to inconsistency in practice and approach.”

It recommended the Department for Education (DfE) launch an evidence-based review to “address the confusion and lack of consistency regarding curriculum and practice in the reception year”.

The report also found that homework had a “very limited impact” on achievement for primary pupils, with some evidence suggesting it actually had a negative impact on progress.

Other findings include a call for teaching assistants to be given access to the same training as teachers and for a profession-led body to conduct rolling reviews of primary teaching, with results published every five years.

A DfE spokesperson “welcomed” the report, adding: “We will consider how best to support schools and heads to address the issues raised around reception year.”

Schools Week has rounded up key points from the report below:


Professional development

Training for primary teachers’ knowledge of a subject and how children learn that subject should be actively developed, using subject leads and expertise.

Mastery teaching approaches, where teachers aim for all pupils to reach a “minimum (but high)” level of knowledge of the same content, was also found in “the most successful schools” and should be increasingly used in primary schools.


Teaching assistants

Teaching assistants should be given career development training in the same way as teachers.

Although the report recognises that teaching assistants are “not a replacement for teachers”, it found the most effective use was for TAs to be trained in “identifying individual children’s needs”.

Experts found that “velcro” teaching assistants, who often provide one-to-one tuition with pupils, can impede pupil attainment and lead to dependency. It said the most successful schools had identified this and trained teaching assistants how to assist pupils in different ways – such as working with small groups of pupils.



The report found the strongest leaders had a “clear vision for the school” which was informed by evidence and understood by all staff.

It said the most successful schools had leaders who do not allow themselves to be distracted from the core business of teaching and learning.



Homework should only be used in primary schools if it is expected that all pupils will achieve the learning objectives, and not for the sake of it.

They found that homework had a very limited impact on achievement for primary-age children – and some evidence had suggested it actually had a negative impact on their progress.


Classroom layout

Successful schools do not “default” children in groups around tables. Schools should vary their layout with three different options:

– Rows: good for individual work but pupils should often be moved to “stimulate attention in the room”.

– Groups: best for group work which can support social interaction and “pupil-to-pupil” assistance.

– Horseshoe: used during whole class discussions where all pupils and teacher can see each other.



Using technology is not a ‘silver bullet’ to help pupils learn and should only be used if it has a “clear pedagogical purpose” – rather than for the sake of using it.

Computers and interactive whiteboards are required but schools should weigh up the effective use of tablets and iPads before purchase and should be clear about how the technology will be used, what training will be required, how will it be embedded and how the impact will be monitored.



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  1. Colin Richards

    There is inconsistency at each stage – not just between reception and year 1. It’s a fact of school life – unless children are “taught” by robots, rather than human beings!

  2. Maria Morgan

    I think this is opinion, not research. I think the panel had an over representation of academy chains. I think they know little about child development. I think they should read the EYFS curriculum.

  3. Agree with Colin, Maria and Kelly. The issue here is lack of child development training for reception teachers and school leadership. Reception is – and should continue to be – EYFS. I wonder how many heads in the representative 20 schools have read the EYFS? I would prefer all heads had a ‘clear vision for every child’ and if solid research is needed then try using CEEDA. Then you will receive a national perspective, a parent perspective and a child perspective. There should be no confusion with well trained early years teachers and a school leadership who understand the EYFS, which is an evidence based curriculum. I would hope that good leadership means placing the child at the centre. If we don’t, we risk ‘failing by five’