Government's response to the Eighth Report from the
Education and Skills Committee, Session 2004-05.
We would like to thank the Select Committee for their
full and incisive report. Like the Committee we believe that the
ability to read is the key to educational achievement, and we
are absolutely committed to building on the good progress that
has already been made in this critical area. We support the Committee's
argument that improving further the teaching of reading depends
on a number of important elements: securing literacy skills early
in a child's development; engaging parents; inspiring a love of
reading; ensuring that every child has the tailored teaching and
support they need; and developing teachers' skills and awareness
of the most effective teaching methodologies. In addition to its
general conclusions, the committee made a number of specific recommendations
to which we have provided responses below.
The Government should undertake an immediate review
of the National Literacy Strategy. This should determine whether
the current prescriptions and recommendations are the best available
methodology for the teaching of reading in primary schools. We
therefore strongly urge the DfES to commission a large scale comparative
study, comparing the National Literacy Strategy with 'phonics
fast and first' approaches.
The National Literacy Strategy, now the Primary National
Strategy, has an excellent track record in raising standards in
literacy. Today standards of English in our primary schools are
the highest they have ever been. The approach to teaching reading
advocated by the Primary National Strategy is based on high quality
national and international research, and places a strong emphasis
and early focus on the teaching of synthetic phonics, alongside
other teaching strategies that support word recognition, understanding
context and knowledge of grammar.
One of the core strengths of the National Literacy
Strategy, now the Primary National Strategy, has been its evolution
to take account of the latest developments. We believe the time
is now right to renew the National Literacy Strategy Framework
for Teaching to ensure that it fully reflects the latest research
and practice, and to bring it in line with the broader developments
within the Strategy itself that have occurred since the Framework
was published in 1998. We are therefore committed to developing
and embedding a renewed Literacy Framework for teaching, with
opportunities for associated professional development, in all
schools from September 2006.
We agree with the Select Committee that at this stage
we need further evidence and clarification about the relative
merits of different approaches to teaching reading, and believe
that this analysis is critical to our work to renew the Literacy
Framework set out above. Synthetic phonics is already a key element
in the Primary National Strategy and the debate now centres not
on whether to teach phonics but how. Our ambition is to ensure
that even more children are able not only to decode the words
on the page, but understand and appreciate what they are reading.
We have therefore asked Jim Rose, former Director of Inspection
at Ofsted, to conduct an independent review of the full range
of best practice in the teaching of early reading and the strategies
that best support children who have fallen behind in reading.
This will address the issue of synthetic phonics in the context
of a broad range of teaching strategies designed to raise standards
The review will provide interim findings by November
this year, with a full report early in 2006, and will consider,
through examination of the available evidence and engagement with
the teaching profession and education experts:
a) What our expectations of best practice in
the teaching of early reading and synthetic phonics should be
for primary schools and early years settings, including both the
content and the pace of teaching;
b) How this relates to the development of the
birth to five framework and the ongoing development and renewal
of the National Literacy Framework for teaching;
c) What range of provision best supports children
with significant literacy difficulties and enables them to catch
up with their peers, and the relationship of such targeted intervention
programmes with synthetic phonics teaching.
In addition, in conducting his review, Jim Rose will
have the opportunity to draw on the findings of an independent
systematic literature review of phonics use in the teaching and
application of reading and spelling which we have commissioned
from Professor Greg Brooks and Carole Torgerson. This delivers
on the public commitment we made, following an independently chaired
seminar of key researchers and practitioners in phonics teaching
held by the Department in 2003, to publish an analysis of existing
research on phonics teaching methodologies. The aim of the literature
review is to identify what is known from existing literature about
how effective different approaches to phonics teaching are in
comparison with each other, including the specific area of analytic
versus synthetic phonics. Findings are to be published later this
As part of his review, Jim Rose, will be conducting
a full analysis of the evidence already available of what is working
now in schools and early years settings. He will be commissioning
Ofsted to undertake some rapid review work to observe the features
of "best practice" in synthetic phonics and in using
the National Literacy framework for teaching. The findings of
this rapid review work will be a key piece of evidence for Jim
Rose to draw on in his final report.
We are also determined to address issues not only
of design, but also of implementation. To this end we will be
looking to examine the practical questions of how we build on
the current implementation of phonics teaching, through a pilot
in 200 schools and early years settings from September. The pilots
will be based on the Primary National Strategy's 'Playing with
Sounds' programme, which has all the key components of a synthetic
phonics programme, and will provide a vehicle to examine a number
of different issues raised in the debate thus far, such as the
pace of phonics teaching in the Foundation Stage, the application
of phonics through play based approaches to learning, and the
ongoing support and training needed to build capacity in early
literacy. We will ensure that the work in the pilots is informed
by any interim recommendations from Jim Rose and conversely that
he is able to draw on findings from the pilots in his final report.
Overall we believe that the combination of the three
measures that have been establishedan independent review
of the existing evidence, a rapid survey of what is working in
the field, and extensive pilots focusing on issues of implementationwill
achieve clarity around what best practice is and how it can be
delivered most effectively. When we have a clear set of recommendations
from this review and pilot work we will be keen to act on this
advice immediately. We are concerned that a large scale trial,
which would perpetuate an artificially rigid distinction between
different approaches to teaching reading, would slow this process
The DfES should commission an independent evaluation
of the trends in reading standards among primary school children
which would make clear the scale and nature of the problem faced,
and provide a further basis for policy work.
The National Curriculum tests are a highly effective
means of assessing progress of children against the standards
of the national curriculum. Within that context, the QCA processes
for maintaining standards have been submitted to rigorous independent
scrutiny and have been found to be among the best in the world.
We are also now able to undertake more sophisticated analyses
of test scripts to identify strengths and weaknesses in teaching
and learning at both a national and a schools level. This information
is invaluable to schools in shaping their teaching and learning
and for the Department in developing policy.
The QCA works constantly to refine and improve their
procedures for maintaining test standards over time. The procedures
are complex and serve the primary purpose of National Curriculum
tests which is to measure the progress of each individual pupil
against National Curriculum expectations, rather than to measure
aggregate standards over time.
In addition to the National Curriculum tests, international
surveys such as the Progress in Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS)
provide independent benchmarks and analysis of reading trends.
Preparations are now underway for the next study in 2006. We are
also able to turn to independent Ofsted evaluations which provide
plentiful quantitative and qualitative evidence on the scale and
the nature of the challenges.
In light of both the range and quality of the information
currently available to assess trends in reading standards, we
do not believe that a further independent evaluation is necessary
in this area.
The DfES should work with the Teacher Training
Agency to review ITT courses, ensuring that teachers are fully
aware of different approaches to the teaching of reading, and
what the research evidence says about the effectiveness of those
different methods. We further recommend that institutions offering
ITT should include modules about the literacy needs of children
at different stages of the process of learning to read within
the current 5 to 11 age span and that programmes of continuing
professional development should be made available to teachers
already in service.
The National Strategies and the Teacher Training
Agency (TTA) already work very closely together to ensure that
through Initial Teacher Training teachers gain a full understanding
of the teaching of literacy and reading for children at all stages
of their development. At primary level all teacher training institutes
have been visited within the last two years to ensure that training
programmes, including those for reading, are in line with the
National Strategies approaches.
Ofsted findings suggest that this close working between
the National Strategies and the TTA is paying dividends. In 2003
Ofsted reported on quality and standards in primary initial teacher
training, based on inspection findings from 1998-2002. They reported
that trainees' subject knowledge and the quality of training in
English had improved significantly over the four year period.
In 2001-2002 the subject knowledge of trainees in
English was judged to be good or better in 80% of cases. At the
same time the quality of training in English was rated good or
better in 90% of cases, and coverage of the NLS was found to "always
good and often very good."
An ongoing commitment to the professional development
of teachers is a cornerstone of the National Strategies' approach
to raising standards in teaching and learning. This year we are
offering 75,000 days of training for teachers in English. A specific
focus this year will be to offer 1 day training in reading and
phonics to two teachers from every school.
Moving forward we will work closely with the TTA
to ensure that ITT programmes are able fully to take account of
the findings of Jim Rose's independent review as well as our wider
work to renew the National Literacy Strategy Framework for Teaching.
Similarly the considerable training and professional development
programmes offered to in service teachers through the Primary
National Strategy will be revised accordingly.
There should be continued Government investment
in training at all levels in the Early Years sector.
We fully support this recommendation and have a range
of activity already underway. For 2004-06 we have provided local
authorities with £129.9 million to undertake a range of workforce
training and development activities for the early years sector.
These activities include the provision of sufficient training:
- to meet the requirements of
the National Standards for Under Eights Day Care and Childminding;
- to ensure that Foundation Stage practitioners
receive an average of four days' training and development a year.
We have introduced the early years sector endorsed
Foundation Degree for those working in the sector. This confers
'senior practitioner' status on those successfully completing
it. Take-up to date has been very encouraging. A recent evaluation
of the Foundation Degree showed that employers' views of it were
overwhelmingly positive. They felt it met a need for early years'
workers, offered a career pathway and provided recognition for
workers and the sector as a whole.
We have also piloted an employment based early years
registered teacher programme for those working in the early years
who wish to continue in the sector as qualified teachers.
We have introduced a new qualification, the National
Professional Qualification for Integrated Centre Leadership, for
leaders within multi-agency, early years settings. The programme
lasts for one year and we expect around 400 people to undertake
the qualification from September 2005.
As part of the current consultation on the Children's
Workforce Strategy, we are seeking views on a range of proposals
we have made for developing the early years and childcare workforce
to meet the challenges of the ten year strategy for childcare.
Following the consultation, we will be working closely with the
newly-established Children's Workforce Development Council and
the Teacher Training Agency to agree with HM Treasury a work programme
for implementing the agreed outcomes from the consultation.
Every setting outside a home which offers early
education should have a trained teacher on its staff.
The latest Effective Provision of Pre-School Education
(EPPE) research report sets out that children in settings which
have staff with higher qualifications, and particularly qualified
teachers (QTS), made better progress and contributed to better
outcomes for children. We have therefore already taken steps to
ensure QTS teachers continue to be assigned to every nursery and
reception class in a school in order to directly provide and supervise
the teaching and the learning opportunities for children in the
setting and we have made this clear in the planned Schools Workforce
Pay and Conditions document. We also continue to ensure that non-maintained
early education settings have access to QTS teachers with a ratio
of 1 teacher to every 10 settings.
At present, it is a requirement of designation that
a children's centre should have a minimum of 0.5 QTS teacher involvement.
In the Children's Workforce Strategy, published in April for consultation
until 22 July, it is proposed that there should be an early years
professional in every children's centre by 2010 and in every full
day care setting by 2015. It is proposed that the Children's Workforce
Development Council and the Teacher Development Agency should
work together to produce a coherent set of occupational and professional
standards for early years practitioners at all levels. If adopted,
these proposals would be likely to have some effect on the future
staffing of children's centres and full day care settings.
Government must ensure that suitable programmes
are available to all those children who require intensive support,
and that they are delivered by highly qualified professionals.
Through the Primary National Strategy we have made
a comprehensive suite of targeted intervention programmes available
to schools to help those pupils who have fallen behind. Ofsted's
2005 report on the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategies says
that most schools make use of these intervention programmes to
support pupils with difficulties, with many opting to use Early
Literacy Support and Further Literacy Support. The report states
that "Headteachers are confident that the pupils involved
have made progress".
We are building on the support currently on offer
in two ways. We are aware, both as a result of Ofsted monitoring
and our own evaluations, that there is more work to do to strengthen
the management and leadership of effective intervention to support
children who have fallen behind their peers. This is a major focus
for this year and we are developing materials and support for
school leaders and managers to help them plan and develop their
intervention and targeted support work better.
We also realise that there is more work needed to
identify the most successful approaches to supporting children
with very significant difficulties in literacy. These are children
who frequently have a range of Special Education Needs, and who
for a variety of social, educational or emotional reasons, need
a different kind and intensity of support to get them reading
The KPMG Foundation is establishing a project with
the Institute of Education and a range of charitable and corporate
funders, to provide Reading Recovery to children in disadvantaged
areas. Reading Recovery is a programme which has a strong track
record in helping this particular group of children, and we are
keen to take the opportunity presented by the KPMG Foundation's
generous offer to consider a range of issues around the implementation
and delivery of targeted support in literacy to children facing
very significant difficulties. We are therefore making £5
million available to the project, which as a whole will provide
intensive reading support to 4000 children over three years who
experience the most significant difficulties in literacy, and
will look to trial a range of implementation models with a view
to achieving a sustainable and cost effective approach to delivering
this type of provision in the future.
To strengthen our approach in this area further we
have asked Jim Rose, as part of his wider review, to consider
the range of provision needed to support children with literacy
difficulties, and we will be building his findings into the Primary
National Strategy plan for 2006-07.
We recommend that the DfES commission further
research in the area of oral phonological awareness training,
to determine the effectiveness of the intensive support programmes
comprised within the National Literacy Strategy, compared to other
"catch up" programmes.
We will ask Jim Rose to consider existing research
on the strength of oral phonological awareness training as part
of his independent review of best practice in the teaching of