What’s new in the DfE’s expanded reading framework?

Updated guidelines suggest in-class 'influencers' could get more children reading

Updated guidelines suggest in-class 'influencers' could get more children reading

11 Jul 2023, 14:56

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A new Ofsted research report looks at effective practice for secondary school pupils struggling with reading

The government’s reading framework has been expanded in a bid to help teachers support children beyond key stage 1.

The document, first released two years ago, has today been fleshed out to provide guidance on how to improve the literacy of seven to 14-year-olds.

Having previously focused on reception and key stage 1, it now advises teachers on how to support older children in need of greater levels of help.

This means the guidance has bulged in size by more than 50 per cent, from 115 to 176 pages.

It was released just after SATs results revealed performance in reading had dropped over the last 12 months. This year, 73 per cent of youngsters met the expected standard, down from 75 per cent.

Here’s what’s been added to the framework…

1. Identify pupils who need most support

According to the document, learning “depends increasingly on literacy” after year 1. Those who do not learn to read early on can “withdraw, become anxious or misbehave”.

The guidance said standardised reading tests “can be a useful first step in identifying these pupils”, but stressed they can only give an “approximate indication” of decoding and fluency levels.

“It is then important to assess all pupils with a reading age of nine and below using a diagnostic assessment for reading.”

Catch-up teaching is vital, the guidance said, “however difficult it may be to organise sufficient time, space and staff”. Given “many secondary teachers and support staff won’t have had training to teach reading, it is essential to provide this”.

Timetabling the catch-up sessions outside class “is not always possible”. But since good reading “is essential if pupils are to access the full curriculum, schools will need to make difficult choices”.

Pupils’ success “depends upon their learning academic vocabulary – and this depends on their ability to decode and understand this new vocabulary rapidly”.

2. Choosing the best reading material

Teachers and English subject leads “might identify a core set of literature for each year group that can either be read aloud in story times or lessons”.

This includes “high-quality contemporary and classic” non-fiction and fiction texts, as well as poetry and prose.

Older children “can also benefit from listening to, studying and reading books from the past that still resonate today – texts from our literary heritage”.

Teachers should also “engage their pupils in choosing new books”. Refreshing the list of core books regularly, as new books are published and new teachers arrive, “will avoid its being set in stone”.

These can include texts that a pupil might choose to read independently, picture books – including graphic novels – and “page-turners” that are “likely to give [youngsters] the most pleasure”.  

So-called “hi-lo books” are also recommended. These are said to “provide high-interest content at an easy reading level” and include histories of famous people, biographies and texts on underwater life.

3. ‘Influencers’ and book clubs can get children reading

The document stated that teachers should “keep track of the books that popular pupils are reading” as their “positive reaction is likely to encourage other pupils to read the same one”.

Despite this, it noted that those leading lessons “are the best promoters”.

“Pupils are willing to trust the judgement of a teacher who says, ‘I think you’ll really enjoy this one,’ not least because they feel that the teacher knows them well enough to care about their likes and dislikes.

“In secondary schools, a school librarian may be best placed to play the role of influencer.”

The Department for Education guidance added that book clubs are opportunities for staff to “promote” texts “and for pupils to make recommendations to each other”.

Ministers believe primary schools should afford at least 20 minutes a week to these sessions for each year group. Meanwhile, secondaries, which have “additional timetabling challenges”, should run book clubs “at least fortnightly”.

4. Promote discussions in class

Talk and discussion “should continue to form an important part of all lessons into key stages 2 and 3 in all lessons, including English lessons”.

Asking children to raise their hands “cuts opportunities for learning” as some “hold back and let [the confident] pupils do the talking”.

Using paired talk as part of whole-class discussion is “therefore one way of ensuring they all contribute”.

Whole-class interactive strategies help pupils “understand what they learn and remember what they have learnt”.

Considering the “author’s craft” is said to be “useful where the lesson’s objective is to develop pupils’ writing”.

But teachers have been warned it can also “break the spell a great story can cast, , preventing a listener from becoming absorbed in what is being read”.

To encourage youngsters to read in their own time, “questions and discussion about a text should stay within the text; it should not be analysed separately”.

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