A new report from Ofsted, Bold Beginnings, looks at best practice in Reception in ‘Good’ and ‘Outstanding’ primary schools.
These schools have a clear vision for the Reception year; leaders have high expectations of what children can achieve.
Children, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, achieve well and staff understand that sharing stories, nursery rhymes and poems, alongside the teaching of phonics, forms the foundation of reading comprehension.
The report states:
“Put simply, by the end of Reception, the ability to read, write and use numbers is fundamental. They are the building blocks for all other learning. Without firm foundations in these areas, a child’s life chances can be severely restricted. The basics need to be taught – and learned – well, from the start.”
The report showed that in the most successful schools:
- Teaching reading is the core purpose of the Reception year
- Leaders have high expectations for how reading is taught
- Headteachers take professional development seriously and provide peer coaching, team teaching and observation
- Storytime – where children can understand what they have heard – is a valued part of the daily routine
- Children read books containing sounds and letters they have been taught
- Learning through play is not left to chance but is adult directed until children are confident to play without adult intervention
- Regular training from external experts ensure all staff teach literacy effectively and consistently
- Slow-progress readers are given the extra support needed to help them keep up.
Ofsted inspectors found that:
“Reading was at the heart of the curriculum in the most successful classes. Listening to stories, poems and rhymes fed children’s imagination, enhanced their vocabulary and developed their comprehension. Systematic synthetic phonics played a critical role in teaching children the alphabetic code and, since this knowledge is also essential for spelling, good phonics teaching supported children’s early writing.”
“The strongest performing schools had found ways to improve their assessment processes…Checks of children’s phonics knowledge, standardised tests (for reading, for example) and [scrutinising] children’s work provided the essential information that Year 1 teachers needed. Such information was quick to collect and more useful for them.”
“The research is clear: a child’s early education lasts a lifetime. Done well, it can mean the difference between gaining seven Bs at GCSE compared with seven Cs. What children are taught during Reception – the curriculum – is therefore hugely important.”
“The gap of 18 percentage points between disadvantaged children and their better-off counterparts, while narrowing, still remains unacceptably wide.”