Moving English forward: action to raise standards in English

Document type
Corporate author(s)
Great Britain. Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (England)
Date of publication
1 March 2012
Education and Skills, Children and Young People
Social welfare
Material type

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Standards in English are not yet high enough for all pupils and there has been too little improvement in primary schools. Consequently, this report sets out to answer the question: how can attainment in English be raised in order to move English forward?

The report is based on evidence from inspections of English between April 2008 and March 2011 in 133 primary schools, 128 secondary schools and four special schools in England, supplemented by three additional good practice visits. It also draws on evidence from six college inspections, other reports published by Ofsted, discussions with teachers and others, and national test and examination results. It reviews developments in the subject in the three years since Ofsted‟s previous English report.

Around 70% of schools inspected in this survey were judged to be good or outstanding in English. This reflects the high profile the subject enjoys in schools, the emphasis placed on raising standards in English and the impact of substantial recent training and support. However, these positive findings also reflect in part the choice of schools for the survey since the sample did not include schools that were in special measures or had been given a notice to improve. Although the quality of provision was broadly similar for primary and secondary schools, there was not enough outstanding teaching in primary schools.

Since 2008, attainment in English has risen in secondary schools. There has also been improvement in the proportion of children who are secure in all aspects of communication, language and literacy at the end of the Early Years Foundation Stage. This has not yet carried through into Key Stage 1 where too many pupils failed to secure the basic reading and writing skills expected at that stage. Standards in English at the end of Key Stage 2 have also not risen since the last report. While four-fifths of pupils at Key Stage 2 reached national expectations over the last three years, one in five primary pupils did not achieve the expected standard in English. Far more pupils failed to achieve this standard in writing and the report links this with weaknesses in the teaching of writing and gaps in the subject knowledge of some English coordinators in primary schools.

Although GCSE results have improved, nearly 30% of students who are entered for GCSE English do not achieve grades A* to C. Across all phases, girls continue to outperform boys in English. Those pupils who are known to be eligible for free school meals continue to achieve less highly in English than those pupils who are not eligible. In addition, the government‟s White Paper, The importance of teaching, makes it clear that floor standards in English need to rise still further and surveys suggest that standards have slipped in comparison with our international competitors

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