Last week, Gill Jones, Ofsted’s Deputy Director for Early Education, discussed how Ofsted looks at early reading and phonics teaching as part of its new inspections.

She explains in her blog that the new EIF includes a reading ‘deep dive’. This deep dive is a mandatory part of the new inspections in primary, junior, infant and lower middle schools.

Inspectors will look at 7 aspects of early reading, as set out in paragraph 298 of the school inspection handbook, a document which explains what inspectors consider when they look at how well the school teaches children to read from the beginning of Reception.

It’s understood that Ofsted has made the early reading deep dive mandatory because it believes it is imperative that children learn to read fluently as quickly as possible.

This reinforces the importance of early years settings addressing the specific area of Literacy (reading and writing) within the EYFS.

To prevent any misunderstanding, Ofsted has laid out a set of criteria of what inspectors will be looking at during deep dives into early reading. They will consider the extent to which:

  • direct, focused phonics is taught every day in Reception and key stage 1
  • children read from books with the sounds they know, while they are learning to read
  • teachers and teaching assistants provide extra practice through the day for the children who make the slowest progress (the lowest 20%)
  • all children in Year 3 and above can read age-appropriate books
  • teachers instil in children a love of literature: the best stories and poems

Gill Jones said; “We’ve been looking closely at what inspectors are finding so far when they look carefully at reading on inspection. It’s heartening to see the teaching of reading being reported on so clearly in our new-style inspection reports.

“I’m pleased to say that many schools are coming out well in reading because leaders are making sure that staff are experts in teaching reading, particularly phonics. However, some schools have been judged to require improvement because they are not teaching reading well enough.

“At a national level, I was disappointed to see that the phonics screening check (PSC) results did not improve in 2018/19. Most concerning was that nearly a third of children from poorer backgrounds did not reach the required standard, as opposed to 15% of those from better-off backgrounds.

“As Amanda Spielman mentioned in our Annual Report last year, this does not have to be the case. Some schools in disadvantaged areas help all their children learn to read well from the start. Some schools have said that this gap in the PSC between poorer and more affluent children is because of the lower levels of cultural capital among disadvantaged children. However, as we know, the successful learning of systematic synthetic phonics is not dependent on cultural capital.

She concludes: “Good phonics teaching will make sure that all children learn to read early, regardless of their background. It is easy for inspectors to find out if a school has a team of expert reading teachers: if the slowest progress readers in key stage 2 can read age-appropriate unseen books with fluency, inspectors know the school has made reading its priority. I hope that with a strong focus on the teaching of early reading in the EIF, it will lead head teachers to pay greater attention to ensuring that every child learns to read in their school.

Read Gill Jones’ full blog here.

On 25th October, Ofsted published its first 13 reports under the new Education Inspection Framework. The inspections that all took place in September include nine grade 2s, three grade 3s and one grade 4. Read the story and report here.


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