Friday, 12 July 2013

Reading in the new national curriculum for England, and other reading news

I blogged about reading only last week, but important new information has since emerged.

I’ve been looking at the language and literacy and English sections of the revised national curriculum in England framework document. It’s good to see the status given to spoken language (a glaring omission in the draft). Reading for pleasure thankfully remains a high priority. I am delighted that schools are told they should provide library facilities, and do everything to promote wider reading. Literacy is viewed as an integral part of all subject teaching, as it should be. The emphasis on comprehension is welcome, and the stress on sharing a wide range of books. The benefits of reading aloud throughout KS1 and 2 are rightly highlighted, with several references to reading whole books rather than extracts. I’m pleased that year 2 and lower KS2 pupils should have opportunities to exercise choice in selecting books and be taught how to do so, though I think this should start earlier, and continue later. The extremely prescriptive requirements relating to phonics, spelling and grammar are a much bigger concern. I also fear that the stipulation that two Shakespeare plays and pre-1914 literature are studied at KS3 may jeopardise the reading enjoyment goals in some schools. (There is also little space for studying post 1918 literature in the KS4 English programme of study.)

Today has seen the publication of disturbing research by the Sutton Trust about gaps in reading attainment in England and Scotland. The brightest boys from poor homes are two and half years or more behind those from wealthier homes in reading. For clever girls, the gap is little better. These are the worst figures among OECD countries. In general, the poorest teenagers in England lag two years and four months behind their richest classmates in reading.

This week we have also learnt the impact of irregular bedtimes on reading. At 7, lack of regular bedtimes is related to lower reading scores in girls, though not boys. Non-regular bedtimes at 3 are associated with lower scores in girls and boys. Girls who have never had regular bedtimes at 3, 5 and 7 have significantly lower scores, as do boys with non-regular bedtimes at any two ages (3, 5 or 7).

No absence of reading skills or enjoyment with these girls I met at Chadwell Primary School.