Ofsted focuses on the teaching of reading

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“I’m thrilled to read that Ofsted’s draft 2019 School Inspection Handbook pays special attention to the teaching of early reading and, in particular, how schools reach the lowest attaining pupils.”

Ruth Miskin

Below is an extract from the Handbook.

Applying the EIF to the teaching of early reading in infant, junior, primary and middle/lower schools

During all inspections of infant, junior, primary and lower middle schools, inspectors will focus on how well pupils are taught to read as a main inspection activity. They will pay particular attention to pupils who are reading below age related expectations (the lowest 20%) to assess how well the school is teaching phonics and supporting all children to become confident, fluent readers.

Inspectors will listen to several low-attaining pupils in Year 1 to Year 3 read from unseen books appropriate to their stage of progress. They should also draw on information from the school’s policy for teaching reading, phonics assessments, phonics screening check results and lesson observations.

In reaching an evaluation against the ‘Quality of education’ judgement, inspectors will consider whether:


  • the school is determined that every pupil will learn to read, regardless of their background, needs or abilities  
  • the school’s phonics programme matches or exceeds the expectations of the English national curriculum and early learning goals  
  • the school has clear expectations of pupils’ phonics progress term by term, from Reception to Year 2, and the school’s phonics programme aligns with these expectations  
  • the sequence of reading books shows a cumulative preogression in phonics knowledge that is matched closely to the school’s phonics programme.


  • the assessment of pupils’ phonics progress is sufficiently frequent and detailed to identify any pupil who is falling behind the programme’s pace, so that targeted support can be given immediately  
  • the school has developed sufficient expertise in the teaching of phonics and reading that ensures consistency from one year to the next
  • reading, including the teaching of systematic, synthetic phonics, is taught from the beginning of Reception  
  • teachers have a clear understanding of how pupils learn to read
  • teachers give pupils sufficient practice in reading and re-reading books that match the grapheme-phoneme correspondences they know, both at school and at home  
  • staff read aloud stories, poems, rhymes and non-fiction that develop pupils’ vocabulary, language comprehension and love of reading.


  • all pupils, including the weakest readers, make sufficient progress to meet or exceed age-related expectations  
  • pupils are familiar with and enjoy listening to a wide range of stories, poems, rhymes and non-fiction.

You can read the full report on the Ofsted website.

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