Head supports drive to improve literacy rates

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A BURY St Edmunds headteacher has spoken out about the importance of findings in an Ofsted report, released yesterday.

The report, Moving English Forward, found that while in many schools English teaching is effective and pupils make good progress, standards in English are not high enough and, since 2008, there has been no overall improvement in primary pupils’ learning.

It says that national progress on literacy has stalled and the UK is being overtaken by other leading nations.

Geoff Barton, headteacher of King Edward VI School, said: “It’s an interesting, if slightly depressing, report because it seems to say that even if youngsters get to the national average level by the age of 11, they don’t necessarily convert to getting a level C at 16.”

“Literacy in the classroom is good but something seems to happen where some children get C or higher and some don’t,” he added.

Having noted such patterns in his school, last week Mr Barton enlisted the help of literacy expert Jo Shackleton, who used to work for the government and is behind much of the work on the national literacy strategy.

She spent three days looking at how literacy was being taught in King Edwards’ classrooms, as well as those in middle schools Hardwick and St James, whose pupils feed into the upper school.

Next week she will return to look at literacy teaching in the six primary schools in King Edwards’ pyramid - St Edmundsbury, Guildhall Feoffment, Hardwick, Great Whelnetham, Sebert Wood, Abbots Green and All Saints - and will make suggestions for improvements that can be made.

Mr Barton, who is passionate about literacy, said: “We want children to love reading.”

He blamed part of the stall in progress on the many new government policies that have been introduced.

He said: “You need the technical skills to decode the words on the page, but all schools are doing that, the problems are the distractions because there are so many other things we’re being told to do.

“The government needs to make reading and writing the priority and get off our backs, by stop bringing out new initiatives every day, and let us concentrate on the essentials.”