Secondary schools need to review “urgently” their teaching of literacy across the curriculum, according to a report from Ofsted.
The study, which looked at examples of best practice teaching in seven schools around the country, expressed concern about “quick-fix” solutions and a general ambivalence among teachers for on-the-job training in the teaching of reading and writing.
It found that good practice included long-term planning, with active, consistent and sustained support from heads and senior leaders.
Literacy should feature across all subjects, with schools drawing on the specialist knowledge of staff members to support individuals and departments where this might be proving problematic.
The study, Improving Standards in Literacy: A shared responsibility, said those schools teaching literacy effectively identified good practice across the curriculum and encouraged staff to learn from each other.
Effective teaching also had a focus on practical ideas that teachers could use in long-term planning and schemes of work.
The most successful schools also made good use of their libraries and librarians to support literacy work across the whole school.
The report said: “The evidence gathered during this survey shows that teachers in a secondary school need to understand that literacy is a key issue regardless of the subject taught. It is an important element of their effectiveness as a subject teacher.”
Angmering School in West Sussex, for example, had implemented a ‘literacy across the curriculum’ strategy, which includes paired reading between older and younger pupils, and competition and events run by the school library.
Meanwhile, at the City Academy in Hackney, there is a focus on encouraging pupils to speak in sentences during lessons, to have a book on the table at all times and to use well-structured sentences and paragraphs in all their writing.
Since the Ofsted framework was changed last September aspects of literacy are now built-in to each of the key judgements made in inspection report.
An outstanding school is likely to have outstanding policies and practice in promoting literacy across the curriculum, with all pupils seen to make good or better progress, including those with English as an additional language, special needs or eligible for funding through the Pupil Premium.
The report said that engaging approaches to developing literacy also cut truancy among disaffected pupils, but there was no one way of “getting it right”. Approaches varied across schools depending on their needs and the expertise of staff.
Michael Cladingbowl, Ofsted’s director of schools policy, said: “This survey found there is no ‘quick-fix’ for raising standards in literacy. The best schools made literacy an integral element of the whole-school curriculum. In these secondary schools, there was no attempt to address literacy through one-off training days for staff. Literacy in the best schools was an integral part of longer term school improvement plans and informed the content of action plans for each subject.”
Last year, Ofsted published a report – Moving English Forward – in which it outlined a 10-point-plan on literacy and committed to publish best practice reports.
Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, welcomed Ofsted’s focus on supporting teachers’ training and sharing evidence.
However, she added: “It’s important to remember that much of what Ofsted has criticised recently as bad practice has in the past been promoted as good practice by Ofsted – the three-part lesson, focus on moving quickly through the lesson rather than checking understanding.
“Heads and teachers will be critical of any suggestions that seem to be about getting through Ofsted inspections rather than based on evidence of how to support young people’s long-term learning and enjoyment.”
To download the best practice report, visit www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/improving-literacy-secondary-schools-shared-responsibility
Last year’s Moving English Forward report, including the 10 points, can also be downloaded from www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/moving-english-forward