Literacy is top priority, Estyn says

Improving poor standards of literacy is one of the main challenges facing education in Wales, according to a new report from inspectors.

Improving poor standards of literacy is one of the main challenges facing education in Wales, according to a new report from inspectors.

Wales’s education inspectorate Estyn, found that nationally, in most secondary schools, standards of oral skills are much higher than for reading and writing. At all national curriculum levels, English performance is lower than the other core subjects, although Welsh first language is much higher. 

Ann Keane, chief inspector of education and training in Wales, said: “One of the main challenges facing education in Wales today is eradicating poor standards of literacy. Too many pupils have a weak grasp of literacy skills which affects how well they do at school.”

She continued: “Even when pupils do well in external assessments of their Welsh or English, their literacy skills are not always strong enough for them to apply these skills fully and confidently in other subject areas.”

However many schools have made improving literacy a top priority in their school development plan and Estyn admits that it was too early to judge the impact of some recent interventions. 

It was noted that more secondary schools are planning opportunities for pupils to gain Essential Skills Wales communication qualifications. However inspectors warn that gaining these qualifications does not necessarily mean that pupils are applying these skills consistently across the curriculum.

The report – Literacy in Key Stage 3 – is based on inspectors’ visits to a sample of 21 secondary schools and completed questionnaires from more than 50 secondary schools.

Only a minority of schools surveyed have carried out an audit of pupils’ literacy skills to see whether subjects identify and provide opportunities for pupils to develop these skills. 

The chief inspector is calling on all schools to make tracking and monitoring a top priority to ensure that “all pupils are given the appropriate opportunities to receive the right support to enable them to progress across all key stages”.

The report sets out a number of recommendations for schools, local authorities and the Welsh government, from monitoring and tracking the impact of strategies for improving literacy to providing better guidance and support for teachers to help them to implement the National Literacy and Numeracy Framework and develop literacy skills across the curriculum.

The Welsh government has welcomed the report and said its recently published National Literacy Programme set out a plan of action to improve matters.

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