Many pupils in primary schools and a majority in secondary schools achieve good standards in English lessons, according to a report published today by Estyn, the education and training inspectorate for Wales. Pupils in English lessons speak clearly during discussions and respond well to a wide variety of texts. However, concerns remain about standards in writing.
‘English in key stages 2 and 3’ finds that although standards are generally good, there are continuing weaknesses in pupils’ higher-order reading skills and in their spelling, grammar and punctuation. In addition, pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds do not achieve as well as their peers and this gap widens as pupils progress from primary to secondary school.
Ann Keane, Chief Inspector, says,
“Reading and writing are the key to success in all areas of the curriculum. Despite the improving trend in the standards of English, the rate of progress is still too slow for 7-14 year-olds in Wales to catch-up with other areas of the UK. Inaccuracies in spelling, punctuation and grammar reduce the quality of writing and affect standards.
“However, there are schools that have been successful in raising standards in English and I urge others to download the report and follow the lead outlined in the best practice case studies.”
‘English in key stages 2 and 3’ reports how Glan Usk Primary School, Newport, developed excellent teaching and assessment practices to help pupils achieve high standards in English. The school identified assessment as central to effective teaching and learning. Staff used assessment to help pupils understand where they were in their learning and how to progress. The work has resulted in a rising trend in pupils’ performance in English with standards exceeding local and national averages.
Overall, the quality of teaching English is good. The best teachers make skilful use of approaches to develop pupils’ reading and writing skills. However, the teaching of writing is underdeveloped in a minority of secondary schools. There is still too much poor quality marking of pupils’ work. The report found that teachers identify pupils’ weaknesses without explanation and do not provide enough guidance on how to improve. Assessment also continues to be one of the weakest areas in schools, and the progress of pupils is not tracked well enough.
Estyn’s report identifies areas of common weakness in standards of English and contains best practice case studies and recommendations to help schools improve and maintain standards. Schools need to continue to focus on raising standards of pupils’ independent writing, provide challenging work in English to stretch all pupils and tackle the underperformance of pupils entitled to free school meals.